Daily Archives: May 9, 2017

May 9, 2017 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)

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May 9, 2017 |

BLOOMBERG

President Donald Trump’s top military advisers are urging him to send 3,000 to 5,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, a White House official said.

Moon Jae-in is poised to take power in South Korea, with an exit poll signaling voters resoundingly backed him to end nine years of conservative rule after the country’s biggest street protests since the 1980s.

Hundreds of Venezuelans arrested in the past week have been tried in secretive military courts, a new maneuver by the government of President Nicolas Maduro as he fights to retain his grip on power in the face of escalating political opposition and massive street protests.

Russia is seeking the endorsement of the UN Security Council as soon as Tuesday for an accord it reached with Turkey and Iran to set up safe zones in Syria, the latest attempt at a cease-fire in a six-year-old civil war that has left hundreds of thousands dead.

China is considering increasing executive compensation at big banks and other state-owned enterprises, according to a person with knowledge of the plan, as the government seeks to retain talent needed to overhaul the bloated state sector.

A young company in Palo Alto called Capella Space, which announced $12 million in new funding on May 9, has figured out a way to create much smaller, cheaper versions of SAR (synthetic aperture radar) satellites. If the technology lives up to its billing, it would make this type of imaging available to businesses, not just governments.

AP Top Stories

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott faced a fierce backlash Monday, hours after signing into law a state ban on sanctuary cities that is widely opposed by law enforcement officials, immigrant rights advocates and religious organizations.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet this week with Russia’s top diplomat as the two countries try to salvage a relationship that Tillerson says is worse than at any time since the Cold War.

The world’s media largely hailed the thumping victory of pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron in France’s presidential election on Sunday, but sounded a note of caution about the task ahead.

Supporters of Confederate-era monuments slated for removal in New Orleans launched a new court fight Monday to save one of them. A statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard on horseback is at the main entrance to New Orleans City Park.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the U.S. owes it to the people of Syria to take a close look at the Russian proposal to create several “safe zones” in Syria. But Mattis also said the plan poses many unanswered questions, including whether it would be effective.

A 15-year-old boy killed by police after pointing a BB gun at them wrote a suicide note indicating he planned to have officers shoot him, authorities said Monday.

Nationwide in 2014, the average life expectancy was about 79.1 years, up 5.3 years from 1980, the study found. For men, life expectancy climbed from 70 years to 76.7 years, while for women it increased from 77.5 years to 81.5 years. But the study also highlighted stark disparities: a baby born in Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota, can expect to live just 66.8 years, while a child born in Summit County, Colorado, can expect to live 86.8 years, on average.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been in orbit around Jupiter for nearly a year, and we’re finally getting a first look at some of the discoveries the probe has been making.

Chicago police issued a bulletin Monday warning its officers about gangs armed with high-powered weapons, after three people were shot to death over the weekend – including two attending a memorial for the earlier victim.

The U.S. Senate easily confirmed Heather Wilson, a former Republican member of the House of Representatives, on Monday to be President Donald Trump’s secretary of the Air Force.

The Philippines and the United States launched annual military exercises on Monday but the longtime allies scaled them down in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s pivot to China and Russia.

BBC

The remains of at least 7,000 people may be buried beneath the University of Mississippi, officials estimate. The bodies of the state’s first mental institution – called the Insane Asylum – stretch across 20 acres of campus where administrators want to build.

Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison has unveiled a new budget which includes a surprise rise in taxation for the country’s five biggest banks from July.

Nearly 250 people are feared drowned after two shipwrecks in the central Mediterranean over the weekend. Some 163 people are missing after a boat reportedly sank off the Libyan coast on Sunday, the UN said. Another sank on Friday night and, though some 50 people were rescued and taken to Sicily, about 82 are missing.

At least 42 people are now known to have been killed by an explosion at a coal mine in north-eastern Iran last Wednesday, state media report.

WND

Being a communist would no longer be a fireable offense for California government employees under a bill passed Monday by the state Assembly.

The Centers for Disease Control is warning of the emergence of a far deadlier tick-related virus than Lyme Disease – one that kills 10 percent of those infected and permanently disables the other 50 percent. It’s called POW for short, or Powassan, and it, like Lyme, is carried by deer. Recent cases have been noted in the Northeast U.S. and the Great Lakes states.

Therapy dogs, chocolate, Play-Doh, video games: Today’s college students are offered a variety of ways to cope with the stress of final exams.

A pastor in Washington state is training for a marathon like none other, as he plans to travel 1,300 miles this summer via foot, bicycle and kayak in an effort to circle the entire state in prayer.


Top News – 5/9/2017

Target Doubles Down On ‘Gay’ Pride Despite Losses In Bathroom War
For the second year, Target is using a #TakePride hashtag on social media to promote its rainbow-themed online merchandise. The retailer’s “pride” paraphernalia include tee-shirts, swim trunks, flip-flops, headphones, iPhone cases and an assortment of other products emblazoned with LBGT logos. In fact, the retail giant, second in size only to Walmart, has become more well-known for its aggressive support of the LGBT agenda and other progressive policies than any other major retailer

Sanhedrin Establishes Jerusalem’s Biblical Borders in Ceremony Last Performed by Prophet Nehemiah
On the day after the Feast of Shavuot (Weeks), the Sanhedrin will reenact a ceremony officially establishing the borders of Jerusalem for purposes of reinstating the Temple service. Last performed by Nehemiah in the sixth century BCE, this was the final step before beginning the sacrifices, but today, it is also meant as a powerful and timely political statement.

Sen. Kennedy to Sally Yates: “Who appointed you to the United States Supreme Court?”
“This is how you deal with liars & obstructionists to the rule of law”. Thank you, Senator Kennedy!

POW! The tick virus far deadlier than Lyme
The Centers for Disease Control is warning of the emergence of a far deadlier tick-related virus than Lyme Disease – one that kills 10 percent of those infected and permanently disables the other 50 percent. It’s called POW for short, or Powassan, and it, like Lyme, is carried by deer.

Iran test-fires a torpedo
The test was carried out in Iranian territorial waters and did not break any international protocols, but the advances Iran is making with this powerful torpedo — which could travel at 250 miles per hour — has Pentagon officials worried, Just last week, American officials said Iran attempted to launch a cruise missile from a submarine in the Strait of Hormuz, but failed.

Analysis: Turkey’s Erdogan stakes his claim to Jerusalem
According to local reports, Erdogan called Israel racist and discriminatory, while describing the blockade of Gaza as having “no place in humanity.”

After Erdogan rant, Israel questions Turkish ambassador
Turkish Ambassador to Israel Kemal Okem was asked on Tuesday by the Foreign Ministry to clarify the harsh anti-Israeli statements made Monday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan…Erdogan, who was speaking at a conference dealing with Jerusalem in Istanbul said that “As a Muslim community, we need to visit al-Aksa Mosque often – each day that Jerusalem is under occupation is an insult to us.”

Turkish President: We will protect against the Judaization of Jerusalem
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday vowed that his government would work with the Palestinian people to guard against the “Judiazation of Jerusalem,”…Erdogan made the comments to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdella…The Turkish President “confirmed the necessity of unifying efforts to protect Jerusalem against attempts of Judaization,” and reiterated an earlier call for Muslims from around the globe to visit the “Al-Aksa” mosque located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Jakarta governor Ahok found guilty of blasphemy
The outgoing governor of Jakarta has been jailed for two years for blasphemy after judges handed down a sentence that was harsher than expected. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, was accused of insulting Islam by referring to a verse in the Koran in a campaign speech last year. Mr Purnama, a Christian in Muslim-majority Indonesia, has denied blasphemy and plans to appeal.

Taliban fight: US may send 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan
The US military and state department are recommending sending at least 3,000 more US troops to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, US media report. Military leaders would also regain the authority to target Taliban leaders with air strikes under the proposals. President Donald Trump has not approved the plan, unnamed officials say. It may include a request that other Nato countries send 3,000-5,000 soldiers.

Russia showcases Arctic hardware in Red Square military parade
Russia rolled out air defense systems built to operate in sub-zero Arctic conditions on Tuesday as it showcased its military might at a parade on Moscow’s Red Square. The parade, an annual event commemorating the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, took place under gray skies as President Vladimir Putin looked on from a platform alongside Soviet war veterans.

White House postpones meeting to decide on participation in Paris climate pact
A meeting of Trump administration advisers that had been scheduled for Tuesday to decide whether to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement has been postponed due to scheduling conflicts, a White House official said…The meeting was meant to lay the groundwork for a formal proposal to Trump, who has promised to announce a decision before a Group of Seven summit at the end of May.

A Tour Down Homicide Lane, As Baltimore Descends Into Chaos
The mainstream media dares not to share this with you, because it destroys the gentrification narrative to lure in the millennial generation for city life. Millennials’ are frantically buying real estate <2 miles from this high homicide area. For the sake of the millennials’, let’s hope a spillover in crime does not occur in their neighborhoods.

The United States Is Hosting A Debt Party – $2,000 Gold Is Coming
There is a global debt party, and the US hosting. But it seems China wants its own party. In the end, it doesn’t really matter because Gold will show up regardess.

Trump Set To Nominate A Slate Of 10 New Federal Court Judges
Having been dealt a number of legal defeats at the hands of Obama-appointed judges in the early days of his administration, Trump is preparing to fill roughly 120 vacancies on lower federal courts around the country.  The first of those new appointments will come later today in the first slate of 10 nominees, which will be followed by “monthly waves of nominations.”

For the first time, Auschwitz guides taught to teach about Jews’ ‘spiritual resistance’
Building a clandestine sukkah; putting on phylacteries; seeking rabbinic counsel. Despite the risk of immediate death if caught, spiritual resistance — large and small — ran strong among religious Jews in the Nazi concentration camps.

Russia Sends Its Most Advanced Fighters to U.S. Coast
Four Russian aircraft flew near the Alaskan coast last night, including two of Russia’s most advanced fighter planes. The flight, which was intercepted by U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fighters, came a week after Russian military aircraft flew near America’s Arctic territory four days in a row.

Obama tripled ‘unmaskings’ in 2016 election year
Statistics contained within an official government report indicate the Obama administration requested the unmasking of almost three times as many Americans under surveillance during the election year of 2016 than during the year before.


May 8, 2017
ALAN KEYES — The famous English historian Edward Gibbon took the view that the rise of Christianity played a critically important role in the fall of both the Western and Eastern divisions of the Roman Empire. Christianity’s rise among the common folk of the Empire and its elites encouraged the depreciation of pagan piety…. (more)

May 8, 2017
CLIFF KINCAID — After chants of “Lock Her Up,” a peaceful pro-Trump protester was harassed, assaulted, and then arrested at the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. on April 29. Police told me to back off as I recorded their rough treatment of Rita Solon, a local resident, who was simply holding a “Make America Great Again” banner and walking back and forth…. (more)

May 8, 2017
JOSEPH FARAH — Do you recall what the Republican excuse was in 2009 for not stopping Obamacare? The Democrats had control of the House of Representatives. So, in the 2010 election, Americans gave Republicans control of the House. Do you remember what the excuse was in 2011-2013 for business as usual and for giving Barack Obama carte blanch on spending bills that would run up the deficit to record levels?… (more)

May 8, 2017
WASHINGTON EXAMINER — Defeating Marine Le Pen by a heavy margin, Emmanuel Macron is now France’s president-elect. This isn’t just a Macron victory. It’s a clear defeat for those who believed Le Pen was Europe’s Trump (she never was). Nor was Le Pen the candidate of French independence. Supporting Brexit and opposing Le Pen are not mutually exclusive…. (more)

May 8, 2017

GARTH KANT — Statistics contained within an official government report indicate the Obama administration requested the unmasking of almost three times as many Americans under surveillance during the election year of 2016 than during the year before…. (more)


May 8, 2017

NEWSMAX — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday night signed what he calls a ban on so-called “sanctuary cities” that allows police to ask about a person’s immigration status and threatens sheriffs with jail if they don’t cooperate with federal authorities. He did so over intense opposition from immigrant-rights groups and Democrats, who say the law echoes Arizona’s immigration crackdown in 2010 that prompted national controversy and lawsuits…. (more)


May 7, 2017

WASHINGTON EXAMINER — Failing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the Senate would be “catastrophic,” Sen. Ted Cruz said Saturday. The Hill reported Cruz, R-Texas, said he anticipates passing the American Health Care Act, or another healthcare reform bill, through the Senate will be a difficult task with only 52 Republicans in the Senate…. (more)


May 6, 2017

YOUR NEWS WIRE — Oxford University claims that parents should be allowed to kill newborn babies because their lives are “morally irrelevant” and killing them is no different than an abortion. According to a group of medical ethicists at the prestigious University, newborn babies are not “actual persons” and they have “no moral right to life.”… (more)


May 6, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — Sen. Rand Paul has issued formal requests with the White House and the U.S. intelligence community to see if he was ever targeted for surveillance by the Obama administration. Charges that former President Barack Obama may have politicized intelligence agencies was in the news again on Friday when Mr. Paul announced a personal inquiry into the matter. The Republican gave an exclusive interview with Breitbart News and informed his 1.2 million Twitter followers of his concerns…. (more)

May 6, 2017
SUSAN FERRECHIO — Now that the House has passed a bill to repeal and replace the healthcare law known as Obamacare, Republican senators will begin putting their stamp on the legislation as early as this week…. (more)

May 6, 2017
BYRON YORK — The House’s narrow passage of a partial repeal of Obamacare dominated media coverage Thursday. Happening at the same time, but receiving little coverage, was the Senate’s approval of a $1.1 trillion spending bill that was far more divisive than Obamacare among Republicans in both houses of Congress…. (more)

May 6, 2017

WALL STREET JOURNAL — Jean Pierre Planchart, a year old, has the drawn face of an old man and a cry that is little more than a whimper. His ribs show through his skin. He weighs just 11 pounds…. (more)


May 6, 2017
WASHINGTON EXAMINER — The FBI is under mounting pressure from the Senate to explain the circumstances behind a terrorist attack in Garland, Texas in 2015, although it’s still far from clear whether the FBI intends to explain why an FBI agent was at the scene and did nothing…. (more)

May 6, 2017
WASHINGTON TIMES — Following through on an executive order signed by President Trump last week, the Interior Department on Friday released a list of the 21 national monuments and five marine monuments now under federal review. The list includes sites dating all the way back to 1924’s Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho up through the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, established late in former President Obama’s term. Other notable monuments under review include Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante, Hanford Reach in Washington, Grand Canyon-Parashant in Arizona, the Papahanaumokuakea marine monument off the coast of Hawaii, and a host of others…. (more)

May 5, 2017
REUTERS — U.S. President Donald Trump, on his third try at overhauling Obamacare, sent no tweets attacking fellow Republicans, set no deadlines and issued no public ultimatums. Lawmakers who met with him said he spoke with them, not at them…. (more)

May 5, 2017
NEWSMAX — The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly approved a bill to repeal Obamacare on Thursday, handing Republican President Donald Trump a victory that could prove short-lived as the healthcare legislation heads into a likely tough battle in the Senate…. (more)

May 5, 2017
WESLEY PRUDEN — The Republicans in the House finally did what they said they wanted to come to Washington to do. They voted Thursday to repeal Obamacare, but by the slimmest of margins. Speaker Paul D. Ryan needed 216 votes and he turned out 217…. (more)

May 5, 2017
NEWSMAX — President Donald Trump praised Australia’s government-funded universal healthcare system moments after touting GOP House passage of bill criticized for leaving millions uninsured, The Washington Post reported…. (more)

May 5, 2017
NEWSMAX — Sen. Ted Cruz Thursday called on his Republican colleagues to “continue to improve” the revised American Health Care Act that was approved by the House by four votes…. (more)

May 5, 2017
SUSAN FERRECHIO — Senate Republicans said Thursday they won’t vote on the House-passed bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, but will write their own legislation instead…. (more)

May 5, 2017
PHILIP KLEIN — After an earlier iteration of the House healthcare bill was pulled from the floor for lack of support, I excoriated Republicans, calling their failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, the “biggest broken promise in political history.”… (more)

May 5, 2017
CHERYL CHUMLEY — President Donald Trump has a new executive order in the works, one to open the doors for churches to endorse political candidates without losing tax exempt status. Freedom From Religion Foundation – – exit, stage left. Don’t let the door hit you. And here, take a Bible for the long walk home…. (more)

May 5, 2017
BOB UNRUH — A school district that employs a “gay” F-bombing assistant principal who was captured on an 18-minute video berating two pro-life advocates on a public sidewalk has been warned to make amends or face legal consequences…. (more)

May 5, 2017
WALL STREET JOURNAL — No one exposed to the seductions of the bewitching “Spy in the Wild” – -the “Nature” series about an undercover team of robotic creatures transmitting intelligence on the lives and works of members of the animal communities they infiltrated – -will be surprised at anything that goes on in this film thick with agents who go by names like Spy Turtle, Spy Dolphin, Spy Squid and Spy Puffer, to name just a few…. (more)

May 4, 2017

CLIFF KINCAID — FBI Director James Comey has been caught going around to secret Congressional briefings in “recent weeks” touting the lurid fake “Trump dossier.” He has been claiming that it is a major foundation of the FBI’s investigation of purported Russian collusion with Trump to interfere in the election – – months after the FBI had already assessed the “dossier” as non-credible…. (more)

Mid-Day Snapshot

May 9, 2017

Yates Blows Smoke … Still No Fire

Her Senate testimony reveals little new information, and no evidence supporting Russian-Trump collusion.

The Foundation

“[I]n the mouths of some [Liberty] means anything, which enervate a necessary government; excite a jealousy of the rulers who are our own choice, and keep society in confusion for want of a power sufficiently concentered to promote good.” —Oliver Ellsworth (1787)


Speculations on Biblical End Times Rise Anew Amid Nuclear War Fears, Natural Disasters

With the likelihood of a major military conflict—if not a nuclear World War 3—involving North Korea and the United States looming larger by the day, speculations about the biblical end times appear to be mounting once again.

View Article


Warning — Islamic State: ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorists Should Use eBay, Craigslist to Lure Victims

The Islamic State magazine Rumiyah has published a set of tutorials for aspiring “lone wolf” jihadis, including advice to use websites such as eBay and Craigslist to lure victims for kidnapping and murder.

View Article

Turkish Dictator Recep Erdogan Calls For Muslims Worldwide To ‘Flood Jerusalem’, Warns Trump On Embassy

During his address, Erdogan also warned the Trump administration not to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying the step would be “extremely wrong” and “ill-advised”

“And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.” Zechariah 12:3 (KJV)

EDITOR’S NOTE: After staging a coup in Turkey and successfully seizing power in a 2017 version of Hitler’s Enabling Act, warned U.S. President Donald Trump to not fulfill his campaign promise to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Not only that, he also called on Muslims worldwide to ‘flood Jerusalem’ and “drive out the occupiers’. 

Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Muslims around the world to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to protect the site’s Islamic identity. The Turkish dictator also took the opportunity to heap scorn on Israel, likening the country’s policies to South Africa’s apartheid era. Speaking at a conference on Jerusalem in Istanbul, Erdogan verbally lashed out at Israel regarding its settlement plan s in West Bank and Jerusalem.

Erdogan successful in major power grab to expand his powers:

“We, as Muslims, should be visiting Al-Quds more often,” Erdogan said, using the Arabic name for Jerusalem. “Each day that Jerusalem is under occupation is an insult to us.”

As many as 26,000 Turks visited the Temple Mount, or Noble Sanctuary, in 2016. However, Erdogan emphasized “hundreds of thousands” should be visiting the site, which is considered holy by Muslims.

Erdogan warns Trump to not even think about fulfilling one of his major campaign promises:

Erdogan went on to say: “What’s the difference between the present acts of the Israeli administration and the racist and discriminatory politics that were practised against black people in the past in America – and up until a short time ago in South Africa.”

During his address, Erdogan also warned the Trump administration not to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying the step would be “extremely wrong” and “ill-advised”.

Erdogan said: “It is not a simple location change. Those who think that way are not aware of how delicate the balance is in the Holy Land.”

Erdogan’s speech attracted a stinging response from Israel, who said the leader has no rights to preach morality. “Whoever systematically violates human rights in his country should not preach morality to the only true democracy in the region. Israel adheres strictly to full freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians – and will continue to do so in spite of this baseless slander,” noted a sharp statement from Israel’s foreign ministry.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that Israel did not plan to respond to Erdogan’s speech, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu changed his mind after his remarks were widely reported by domestic and international media. source


Hacktivist Group Anonymous Warns The World To ‘Prepare For WWIII’ In Chilling New Video

The infamous hacktivist group Anonymous has released a chilling new video — urging people across the globe to “prepare” for World War 3 — as the US and North Korea continue to move “strategic pieces into place” for battle

“And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.” Mark 5:9 (KJV)

“All the signs of a looming war on the Korean peninsula are surfacing,” the group says in the ominous six-minute clip, posted on Youtube over the weekend.

Using their signature Guy Fawkes character, the hackers make several claims about recent military movements in the region — and alleged warnings made by Japan and South Korea about imminent nuclear attacks from the North — as they deliver their frightening war prophecy.

“Watching as each country moves strategic pieces into place,” the organization says, in their notorious robotic voice. “But unlike past world wars, although there will be ground troops, the battle is likely to be fierce, brutal and quick. It will be also be globally devastating, both on environmental and economical levels.”

According to Anonymous, President Trump’s test of the Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile last week — coupled with a recent warning from Japanese officials to citizens, telling them to make preparations for a possible nuclear attack — are ultimately proof that all signs are pointing to a major conflict between the US and North Korea.

In addition, China has reportedly urged its citizens in the Hermit Kingdom to return home as tensions continue to escalate over their nuclear weapons program

“This is a real war with real global consequences,” the group explains. “With three superpowers drawn into the mix, other nations will be coerced into choosing sides, so what do the chess pieces look like so far?”

Anonymous — described online as a global network of hackers, intent on spreading “facts the government doesn’t want you to know” — claims the US and South Korea have been working together to keep the peace in the region, along with China and the Philippines, but their pleas have fallen “on deaf ears.”

They claim that the Trump administration has been also working closely with the Australians, sending a rotational deployment of more than 1,000 US troops to the country, along with a large fleet of military aircraft.

Australia is ultimately considered to be a “strategic location in the Indian ocean,” Anonymous says.

“The citizen will be the last to know, so it is important to understand what the other nations are doing,” the group states, citing China’s warning last week to its people in the North.

“The pragmatic Chinese, it seems, are starting to lose their patience.”

Another surefire sign that war is imminent, according to Anonymous, are the recent talks between President Trump and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

The pair met at the White House a little over a week ago to discuss the situation with North Korea and other regional security threats. A readout later claimed that relations between the two countries were “heading in a very positive direction.”

“When President Trump starts reaching out to those like President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines to assure they are on the same page, one must start to wonder,” Anonymous says in the video. “However, even Duterte has advised the US to back away from Kim Jong Un.”

The group concludes the video with an eerie message for those watching around the world.

“Prepare for what comes next,” they say. “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget.” source


Leaving the NAR Church: Kara’s story

“The evangelist (Todd Bentley), preached and instructed viewers to lay hands on the TV screen for impartation to occur.  I told God I would use that anointed impartation to lay hands on and heal my sick husband…” Kara has allowed me to include her story in this series about a movement called the New Apostolic […]


Kris Vallotton: Prosperity Preacher Exchanging Love for Wealth

NAR heretic Kris Vallotton actually teaches that God wants His people to be wealthy in spite of all the scriptures that say just the opposite.  Here’s an example of how wealth corrupts people: Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and […]


How much should ‘associations’ factor into my assessment of whether a teacher is false or not?

What do Billy Graham, Ravi Zacharais, Beth Moore and David Jeremiah have in common? They’ve associated with wolves who lead the sheep astray and they’re unrepentant about their associations.  Elizabeth Prata lays out why Christian leaders must not be careless when it comes to their associations.  As a Berean it’s up to you to check […]


Leaving the NAR Church: Christopher’s story

“There is a deep sadness in me, a sorrow over wasted years and opportunities. I get angry with myself for having been deluded and so easily led into false doctrine and practice.” Christopher got swept up in the “Third Wave,” another term for the New Apostolic Reformation. I love how he tells of his journey […]


The Hottest Thing at Church Today

According to a new study, what people want in a church is changing.  Blogger, author and book reviewer Tim Challies expresses his concern that pastors will give their congregants what they want but “they will do so not on the basis of biblical convictions, but on the basis of pragmatism.” In other words, pragmatism or […]


AWANA Now Teaching Children to Hear the Voice of God?

“It is important to remember that a conversation involves two people talking.  We need to make sure that we are taking time to listen to God speak to us too.” Apparently that is how AWANA Club students are being instructed to hear extra-biblical voices. But the Bible never tells us to pray this way. When […]


ZeroHedge Frontrunning: May 9

  • Yates warned Trump over Flynn blackmail fears (Read More)
  • Former Trump security aide was Russia blackmail risk: ex-U.S. official (Read More)
  • Visiting the White House Can Boost Your Stock Price. So Who’s Visiting Trump? (Read More)
  • Investors Lighten Up on U.S. Stocks, Betting on Europe (Read More)
  • Oil steadies but rattled by concern about OPEC’s clout (Read More)
  • GOP Confronts Backlash Over Health Bill (Read More)
  • Macron’s Next Test: Winning Control of France’s Parliament (Read More)
  • French ex-prime minister Valls offers to back Macron in June elections (Read More)
  • Buying Spree Brings Attention to Opaque Chinese Company (Read More)
  • Iron Ore Sags Again as Forced-Sale Speculation Gathers Momentum (Read More)
  • Elliott Takes Akzo Nobel to Court to Oust Chairman in PPG Bid Battle (Read More)
  • Russia showcases Arctic hardware in Red Square military parade (Read More)
  • SEC Probes Rental Home Values Backing Private-Equity Bond Deals (Read More)
  • Chicago Police Warn Officers of Assault-Style Weapons Threat (Read More)
  • Racist soldier’s militant double life shocks Germany (Read More)
  • Qatar says Syria ‘de-escalation’ plan not an alternative to political transition (Read More)
  • Jakarta’s Christian governor jailed for blasphemy against Islam (Read More)
  • Amazon Plans to Unveil New Echo (Read More)
  • Venezuelans Accused of Rebellion Are Hauled Into Military Court (Read More)
  • Turks in Germany won’t be allowed to vote on death penalty: Merkel (Read More)
  • Germany detains third man suspected of planning ‘extremist’ attack (Read More)
  • Refugee Turned Fintech Chief Aims to Upend a $444 Billion Market (Read More)

Featured Blogs


Top Headlines – 5/9/2017

Carl Bernstein calls Israel the ‘epicenter’ of today’s geopolitics – any serious journalist who wants to understand the world needs to understand Israel

Shaked: When two-state deal goes nowhere, Trump will think out of the box

Jewish Trump confidant: US president has convinced Abbas to make concessions

Archbishop of Canterbury says Mideast peace talks may need to include Hamas

US Embassy in Saudi Arabia posts video editing out Israel from Trump’s trip

State Department says removing Israel from Saudi visit video was ‘inadvertent mistake’

Putin and Abbas to meet next Thursday

Erdogan lashes ‘racist’ Israel, calls for Muslims to flood Temple Mount

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked Has No Sympathy for Hunger-Striking Palestinian Terror Convicts: ‘It’s Their Own Problem’

Archbishop of Canterbury expresses ‘grief and sorrow’ at plight of Palestinians

NBA Great Ray Allen Is on a Mission to Educate Everybody About the Holocaust

Hasidic Jews serenade pope at the Vatican

Belgian region outlaws kosher slaughter

ISIS Infiltrates the Rukban Refugee Camp at Jordan-Syria Border

Syria Rejects U.N. Monitoring Role in ‘De-Escalation Zones’

Eastern Libya general’s troops push into central Benghazi clearing out the final areas held by Islamists

1 million children refugees from South Sudan’s civil war

Iran warns will hit militant ‘safe havens’ inside Pakistan

Iran test-fires torpedo in the Strait of Hormuz

Trump plans to discuss Iran threat in upcoming Israel visit

House to Probe Whether Obama Undermined U.S. National Security to Finalize Iran Deal

As China-North Korea ties cool, Russia looks to benefit

Congressional Expert: North Korea Prepping EMP Catastrophe Aimed At U.S. Homefront

North Korea’s mystery islands: Man-made keys could be new nuclear launch sites

Chinese-North Korean Venture Shows How Much Sanctions Can Miss

South Koreans head to polls to choose next president

Emmanuel Macron’s unlikely path to the French presidency

Macron Victory: We’ve Just Witnessed What Can Happen When the Globalists Work Together

Emmanuel Macron: French president-elect to fight ‘forces of division’

Paris rail hub evacuated in terror-linked police manhunt

U.S. mulls banning most electronics on flights to Europe, United Kingdom

Attorney: Travel ban is religiously motivated

Trump administration insists travel ban not anti-Muslim

Judges struggle with ‘taint’ from Trump’s Muslim ban comments

Texas governor signs into law bill to punish ‘sanctuary cities’

Groups clash over removal of New Orleans Confederate monuments

Condoleezza Rice on Slave Owner Statue Purge: “When you start wiping out your history, sanitizing your history, to make you feel better, it’s a bad thing”

Chicago Police Warn Officers of Assault-Style Weapons Threat

California may end ban on communists in government jobs

Fights over Trump drive couples, especially millennials, to split up

White House was warned Trump aide Flynn a blackmail risk

Rand Paul: Obama may have spied on me, other lawmakers using NSA intercepts

Wi-Fi holography can be used to “spy” on entire rooms and buildings

Report: Android Apps Secretly Track Users by Listening to Inaudible Sounds

FCC website hit by attacks after ‘net neutrality’ proposal

Facebook was down and everyone across the globe was freaking out

Facebook removes accounts in fight against fake news

A.I. is in a ‘golden age’ and solving problems that were once in the realm of sci-fi, Jeff Bezos says

6.2 magnitude earthquake hits near Tanaga Volcano, Alaska

6.0 magnitude earthquake hits near Hirara, Japan

5.9 magnitude earthquake hits near Adak, Alaska

5.7 magnitude earthquake hits near Adak, Alaska

5.4 magnitude earthquake hits near Tocache Nuevo, Peru

5.2 magnitude earthquake hits near Tanaga Volcano, Alaska

5.0 magnitude earthquake hits near Tanaga Volcano, Alaska

Sabancaya volcano in Peru erupts to 25,000ft

Fuego volcano in Guatemala erupts to 15,000ft

Sinabung volcano in Indonesia erupts to 14,000ft

Arkansas suffers nearly $21 million in damages after historic flooding

Canada floods: 3 missing in Quebec and British Columbia

Trump Should Pull Out of Obama’s Unilaterally Created Paris Climate Change Treaty

France sent 42 people to a global climate summit. The Trump administration sent 7.

Obama to discuss climate change in Italy

Did Monsanto Hire Online Trolls to Attack Critics?

Meningitis May be to Blame for Liberia Mystery Outbreak

Yemen cholera outbreak kills 25 people in a week – WHO

Suicide-Related Cases Increasingly Common in Children’s Hospitals, Study Finds

Some spooky things are happening at serial killer Ted Bundy’s childhood home

Christian Couple Who Lost Gay Marriage Cake Case Sees Profits Soar to Millions Despite Controversy

#ThingsJesusNeverSaid Trends on Twitter as Christian Liberals, Conservatives Mock Each Other

The Diabolical Teaching About a Make-Believe Place Called Purgatory

From beyond the grave: Opening statements in child rape claim get personal, with video testimony to come from the late Jan Crouch of TBN

Kris Vallotton: Prosperity Preacher Exchanging Love for Wealth

T.D. Jakes Praises Depraved Conceited Prosperity Teacher who Knows Nothing

Michael Brown Can’t Defend “Sneaky Squid Spirit”-Repeatedly Changes the Subject

Detroit World Outreach’s Late Pastor Did Not Want Widow to Succeed Him, Church Says

Hank Hanegraaff Reveals He Has Rare Form of Cancer, Reads Orthodox Prayer Surrendering to God

Abortion Doctor Compares Killing 27-Week-Old Baby to Flu Shot

Jakarta’s Christian governor found guilty of blasphemy against Islam

Hank Hanegraaff Reveals He Has Rare Form of Cancer

Posted: 09 May 2017 08:53 AM PDT

“Bible Answer Man” Hank Hanegraaff has told his supporters that doctors have discovered he has a rare form of cancer. Hanegraaff explained that he’s hoping for…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

120-year-old Illinois church ditches ‘Baptist’ name over ‘negative stereotypes’

Posted: 09 May 2017 07:29 AM PDT

After more than a century of being identified as “Baptist,” one Illinois church is ditching its denominational designation. The First Baptist Church of Geneva in Kane…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Turkish President Working to End ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem

Posted: 09 May 2017 07:25 AM PDT

Hours after launching a scathing attack on Israel, calling on Muslims to flood the Temple Mount in protest at the “occupation” of Jerusalem, Turkish President…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Catholic Schools Accused of ‘Transphobia’ for Canceling Play About Boy Who Dresses as a Girl

Posted: 09 May 2017 07:18 AM PDT

A Catholic school board is being criticized and accused of “transphobia” after it canceled an LGBT-themed play that was slated to be performed in five…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Deadly Hailstorm Strikes Colorado, Leaving Widespread Damage

Posted: 09 May 2017 07:12 AM PDT

A severe thunderstorm hit Colorado on Monday, May 8, 2017, dumping hail as large as tennis balls. The storm blanketed the state in a thick…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Strong Magnitude 6.0 earthquake strikes Hirara, Japan

Posted: 09 May 2017 07:09 AM PDT

A strong M6.0 earthquake hit the Ryukyu Islands, Japan at 01:54 UTC on May 9, 2017. The epicenter of the shallow earthquake was situated at…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Ex-Obama Official on ISIS Killing Christians: ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’

Posted: 09 May 2017 07:04 AM PDT

Days after ISIS warned Muslims in Egypt to “stay away from Christian gatherings,” the terror group has shot dead a Christian man inside a barber…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

VP Pence Joining Franklin Graham to Stand for Persecuted Christians

Posted: 09 May 2017 06:56 AM PDT

Vice President Mike Pence will address hundreds of persecuted Christians from around the globe at a Washington, D.C., summit hosted by evangelist Franklin Graham this…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Chicago Police Issue Bulletin On Gangs and High-Powered Weapons

Posted: 09 May 2017 06:50 AM PDT

Chicago police issued a bulletin Monday warning its officers about gangs armed with high-powered weapons, after three people were shot to death over the weekend…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Russia Reveals Nuclear Warheads, Monster Military Vehicles and 10,000 Troops!

Posted: 09 May 2017 06:45 AM PDT

Vladimir Putin was today staging a monster military parade showcasing Russia’s huge firepower and hailing as heroes his troops who have seen service in Syria….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Anonymous warns world to ‘prepare’ for World War 3…

Posted: 09 May 2017 06:39 AM PDT

The infamous hacktivist group Anonymous has released a chilling new video — urging people across the globe to “prepare” for World War 3 — as…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Mandatory Evacuations Grow in Florida and Georgia From Raging Wildfires

Posted: 08 May 2017 07:32 PM PDT

A mandatory evacuation has broadened as a wildfire near the Georgia-Florida line threatens small communities on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp. Okefenokee National Wildlife…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Alaska Hit By 45 Significant Earthquakes Within 24 Hours As The West Coast Wonders If ‘The Big One’ Is Imminent

Posted: 08 May 2017 07:20 PM PDT

(Reported By Michael Snyder) Within the last 24 hours, 45 earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater have struck Alaska, and 25 of them were of…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

President of Turkey Rebukes Israel, Calls for Muslims to Flood Temple Mount

Posted: 08 May 2017 07:14 PM PDT

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday urged Muslims to throng to the Temple Mount in a show of solidarity with Palestinians as he issued…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

A Father To The Fatherless

Posted: 08 May 2017 06:34 PM PDT

(By Ricky Scaparo) In this segment, we discuss how many people have been raised in broken homes and raised without a father. Discover how the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DEVELOPING: Heavily-Armed Cops Storm Paris train station in hunt for ‘Three Dangerous Men’

Posted: 08 May 2017 06:25 PM PDT

One of the busiest train stations in Europe was placed on lockdown as heavily armed cops reportedly hunted for ‘three dangerous men’. French authorities confirmed a police…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Husband Reunited With Family After ISIS Held His Wife, 2 Small Children Captive for 3 Years

Posted: 08 May 2017 05:18 PM PDT

Stuck in the middle of the ongoing fight between ISIS and the national Iraqi military, the Iraqi civilian population knows the emotional and physical trauma of war…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

North Korea Arrests Christian Professor; Fourth US Citizen Held as Crisis Between Nations Escalates

Posted: 08 May 2017 05:08 PM PDT

North Korea has reportedly arrested a U.S. citizen and professor from the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology who has identified himself as a Christian….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

CDC Warns of Tick-Related Virus That Kills 10%, Permanently Disables 50%

Posted: 08 May 2017 04:59 PM PDT

The Centers for Disease Control is warning of the emergence of a far deadlier tick-related virus than Lyme Disease – one that kills 10 percent…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Shark attacks on the rise along the California coast

Posted: 08 May 2017 04:52 PM PDT

Shark attacks are on the rise along the California coast. “Beach access to the water is closed today because we had a girl get bit…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

BIG BROTHER . . Apps Secretly Track By Listening to Inaudible Sounds…

Posted: 08 May 2017 04:50 PM PDT

An increasing number of Android applications are attempting to track users without their knowledge, according to a new report. Over recent years, companies have started…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Norway’s Progress Party Calls For Ban On Circumcision Of Boys

Posted: 08 May 2017 01:13 PM PDT

The Progress Party in Norway voted on Saturday in favor of a law banning ritual circumcision of children under the age of 16, a day…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Middle school student suspended for ‘liking’ photo of gun on Instagram

Posted: 08 May 2017 12:22 PM PDT

An Edgewood Middle School student was handed a 10-day suspension for “liking” a picture of a gun on Instagram with the caption “ready.” The parents…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

For the First Time, Russia Ranked Among Worst Violators of Religious Freedom

Posted: 08 May 2017 12:19 PM PDT

Russia’s ongoing crackdown on religious minorities, foreign missionaries, and evangelists has earned it a spot among the worst countries in the world for religious freedom….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Emma Watson Wins MTV’s First-Ever Genderless Award

Posted: 08 May 2017 12:11 PM PDT

Actress Emma Watson won on Sunday night the first-ever gender-neutral MTV TV & Movie acting award for her performance in “Beauty and the Beast,” hailing…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Colorado teacher placed on leave for Trump piñata

Posted: 08 May 2017 12:05 PM PDT

A Weld County high school teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave after photos of a controversial Cinco de Mayo incident of students smashing…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Facebook Removes Tens of Thousands Of Accounts In “Fake News” Purge

Posted: 08 May 2017 12:00 PM PDT

Facebook says it has deleted tens of thousands of accounts in Britain ahead of the June 8 general election in a drive to battle fake…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Monsanto accused of hiring army of trolls to silence online dissent

Posted: 08 May 2017 11:55 AM PDT

Biotech giant Monsanto is being accused of hiring, through third parties, an army of Internet trolls to counter negative comments, while citing positive “ghost-written” pseudo-scientific…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Iran Test Fires High-Speed Torpedo…

Posted: 08 May 2017 10:55 AM PDT

Three senior defense officials report that Iran test-fired a high-speed torpedo near the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday. The Hoot torpedo is still in the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

BREAKING NEWS: 6.4 Earthquake Strikes Off Alaska Following Series of Smaller Quakes

Posted: 08 May 2017 10:51 AM PDT

A large earthquake struck off Alaska on Monday morning, but it was not strong enough to generate a tsunami threat for Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami…

Read more at End Time Headlines.


What is The Gospel?


Who Do You Think That I Am?

Selected Scriptures

Code: A335

With that brief question Jesus Christ confronted His followers with the most important issue they would ever face. He had spent much time with them and made some bold claims about His identity and authority. Now the time had come for them either to believe or deny His teachings.

Who do you say Jesus is? Your response to Him will determine not only your values and lifestyle, but your eternal destiny as well.

Consider what the Bible says about Him:

JESUS IS GOD

While Jesus was on earth there was much confusion about who He was. Some thought He was a wise man or a great prophet. Others thought He was a madman. Still others couldn’t decide or didn’t care. But Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). That means He claimed to be nothing less than God in human flesh.

Many people today don’t understand that Jesus claimed to be God. They’re content to think of Him as little more than a great moral teacher. But even His enemies understood His claims to deity. That’s why they tried to stone Him to death (John 5:18; 10:33) and eventually had Him crucified (John 19:7).

C.S. Lewis observed, “You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Mere Christianity [Macmillan, 1952], pp. 40-41).

If the biblical claims of Jesus are true, He is God!

JESUS IS HOLY

God is absolutely and perfectly holy (Isaiah 6:3), therefore He cannot commit or approve of evil (James 1:13).

As God, Jesus embodied every element of God’s character. Colossians 2:9 says, “In Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” He was perfectly holy (Hebrews 4:15). Even His enemies couldn’t prove any accusation against Him (John 8:46)

God requires holiness of us as well. First Peter 1:16 says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

JESUS IS THE SAVIOR

Our failure to obey God—to be holy—places us in danger of eternal punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:9). The truth is, we cannot obey Him because we have neither the desire nor the ability to do so. We are by nature rebellious toward God (Ephesians 2:1-3). The Bible calls our rebellion “sin.” According to Scripture, everyone is guilty of sin: “There is no man who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And we are incapable of changing our sinful condition. Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”

That doesn’t mean we’re incapable of performing acts of human kindness. We might even be involved in various religious or humanitarian activities. But we’re utterly incapable of understanding, loving, or pleasing God on our own. The Bible says, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

God’s holiness and justice demand that all sin be punished by death: “The soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). That’s hard for us to understand because we tend to evaluate sin on a relative scale, assuming some sins are less serious than others. However, the Bible teaches that all acts of sin are the result of sinful thinking and evil desires. That’s why simply changing our patterns of behavior can’t solve our sin problem or eliminate its consequences. We need to be changed inwardly so our thinking and desires are holy

Jesus is the only one who can forgive and transform us, thereby delivering us from the power and penalty of sin: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Even though God’s justice demands death for sin, His love has provided a Savior, who paid the penalty and died for sinners: “Christ … died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Christ’s death satisfied the demands of God’s justice, thereby enabling Him to forgive and save those who place their faith in Him (Romans 3:26). John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” He alone is “our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13).

JESUS IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE OBJECT OF SAVING FAITH

Some people think it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere. But without a valid object your faith is useless

If you take poison—thinking it’s medicine—all the faith in the world won’t restore your life. Similarly, if Jesus is the only source of salvation, and you’re trusting in anyone or anything else for your salvation, your faith is useless.

Many people assume there are many paths to God and that each religion represents an aspect of truth. But Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). He didn’t claim to be one of many equally legitimate paths to God, or the way to God for His day only. He claimed to be the only way to God—then and forever.

JESUS IS LORD

Contemporary thinking says man is the product of evolution. But the Bible says we were created by a personal God to love, serve, and enjoy endless fellowship with Him

The New Testament reveals it was Jesus Himself who created everything (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). Therefore He also owns and rules everything (Psalm 103:19). That means He has authority over our lives and we owe Him absolute allegiance, obedience, and worship.

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Confessing Jesus as Lord means humbly submitting to His authority (Philippians 2:10-11). Believing that God has raised Him from the dead involves trusting in the historical fact of His resurrection—the pinnacle of Christian faith and the way the Father affirmed the deity and authority of the Son (Romans 1:4; Acts 17:30-31).

True faith is always accompanied by repentance from sin. Repentance is more than simply being sorry for sin. It is agreeing with God that you are sinful, confessing your sins to Him, and making a conscious choice to turn from sin and pursue holiness (Isaiah 55:7). Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15); and “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31).

It isn’t enough to believe certain facts about Christ. Even Satan and his demons believe in the true God (James 2:19), but they don’t love and obey Him. Their faith is not genuine. True saving faith always responds in obedience (Ephesians 2:10).

Jesus is the sovereign Lord. When you obey Him you are acknowledging His lordship and submitting to His authority. That doesn’t mean your obedience will always be perfect, but that is your goal. There is no area of your life that you withhold from Him.

JESUS IS THE JUDGE

All who reject Jesus as their Lord and Savior will one day face Him as their Judge: “God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

Second Thessalonians 1:7-9 says, “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

HOW WILL YOU RESPOND?

Who does the Bible say Jesus is? The living God, the Holy One, the Savior, the only valid object of saving faith, the sovereign Lord, and the righteous Judge.

Who do you say Jesus is? That is the inescapable question. He alone can redeem you—free you from the power and penalty of sin. He alone can transform you, restore you to fellowship with God, and give your life eternal purpose. Will you repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A335
COPYRIGHT ©2017 Grace to YouYou may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/connect/copyright).


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CultureWatch: The Case for Christ

It was a key principle of Plato’s Socrates that one should follow the evidence wherever it leads. He also said that the ‘unexamined life is not worth living’. Thus those who claim to be seekers after truth need to carefully investigate the evidence, and be willing to change course if that is suggested by the evidence.

People on a religious quest, including agnostics and even atheists, need to do the same. Unless their minds are already made up, they need to be open to new evidence, to new data, which may result in them changing direction in terms of previously held beliefs.

strobelAdmittedly this can be a risky path to be on. For example, more than one atheist has dared to look into the evidence for Christianity – often with a view of proving how false the whole thing is – only to end up being roundly convinced by all the evidence, and becoming Christians – or at least theists – as a result.

Many such cases can be mentioned here. Frank Morrison for example was a lawyer and an engineer who wanted to disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So he set about on a serious course of study, only to find that the resurrection was a historically verifiable fact. Thus he wrote his famous book Who Moved the Stone? in 1930.

One of atheism’s heaviest hitters, Antony Flew also examined the evidence, and as a result, in 2004 he renounced his atheism and became a theist. I tell his story here: billmuehlenberg.com/2007/11/21/a-review-of-there-is-a-god-by-antony-flew/

Another noted atheist who set out to prove that Christianity was a bunch of hogwash is Lee Strobel. Most Christians would know of his story. He was an atheist and a rising star as an investigative journalist, writing for the Chicago Tribune. One of his news stories he turned into a book when he was just 28.

Much to his chagrin however, his wife became a Christian in 1979, and two years later after much prayer and love from his wife, and much research on his own, Lee too became a Christian. He wanted his newspaper to print his story of a real life sceptic who became a believer, but his editor refused.

His wife suggested that he write a book instead, and the rest, as they say, is history. In 1998 his book The Case for Christ came out and it has sold millions of copies since then. Strobel has gone on to write many more books, including: The Case for Faith (2000); The Case for a Creator (2004); and The Case for the Real Jesus (2007). I have already reviewed some of these volumes:

billmuehlenberg.com/2005/01/17/a-review-of-the-case-for-a-creator-by-lee-strobel/
billmuehlenberg.com/2008/02/21/798/

His first book has now been made into a full length feature film, which I have just returned from seeing. So let me speak a bit more to both the film and the book. After his wife’s conversion, Strobel was greatly troubled, wishing she would let go of this foolishness and go back to the woman he used to know.

But she clung to her newfound faith, despite the insults and nasty reactions of her husband. But he was really bugged by all this, and his journalist side was intrigued. Indeed, some of his Christian colleagues challenged him to do the same thing with Christianity as he would with any other news story: investigate things carefully and look at all the evidence.

So a lengthy process of exploring the evidence in detail and following it wherever it would lead resulted in Strobel not just reading heaps of Christian writers, but actually meeting and interviewing many key Christian thinkers, apologists and writers.

In the film some of the ones presented in the book are featured (played by actors of course). They include: Dr. Gary Habermas, Dr. Alexander Metherell, and Dr. William Lane Craig. As he spoke to these authorities he slowly found his many objections and criticisms melting away in the face of all the solid evidence.

A few personal dramas, including the death of his father, also helped to prepare Strobel for finally seeing his need of admitting that God exists, and that he needs to come to terms with him. So the film shows us all the struggles and turmoil he went through, and all the resistance he put up, until he finally realised that the evidence pointed only in one direction.

Thoughts about the film

I of course strongly urge all of you who have not yet done so to get the book. It is a terrific presentation and examination of the evidence for the Christian faith. But I also urge you to go see the film, which is only out on a brief and limited release.

I should mention that my wife was rightly cautious about going to see the film, knowing that many previous Christian films have been poorly done, overly preachy, not very well written or produced, poorly acted, with bad plots and stilted characters, and so on. But she was pleasantly surprised that this was indeed a very well done film.

And I quite enjoyed it too. It certainly was well done, and I think this sort of film a Christian could easily take a non-believing friend to see, and then discuss it afterwards over a cup of coffee – or a can of Dr Pepper. Of interest, Rotten Tomatoes has given the film a 79% review rating thus far, and an 84% positive audience score.

Since Strobel was a Chicago boy, I found it of interest to see some familiar places (I was from Wisconsin just to the north, and I lived in Chicago for some years. Thus I sometimes went to the same church Strobel did – back then the converted movie theatre that Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church used.

On a side note, one of the most interesting and ironic moments of my viewing happened just before the film actually started. As is usually the case, trailers for other films about to appear or are now showing were featured. One of them was for another popular religious film, The Shack.

I thought the contrast could not be greater. If The Case for Christ is all about evidence, facts, apologetics, good theology and the use of the mind, The Shack is all about emotions, feelings, and bad theology. But I have reviewed the book version of the film here:
http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/04/11/a-review-of-the-shack-by-william-young-part-one/
http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/04/11/a-review-of-the-shack-by-william-young-part-two/

And the author’s newest book I have reviewed here:
billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/20/william-paul-young-heretic-part-one/
billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/20/william-paul-young-heretic-part-two/

Suffice it to say that if Christians asked me which book to read and which film to see, it would be YES to Strobel and NO to Young. Sadly however I suspect that there may be more Christians going to see The Shack than The Case for Christ. That in good measure helps explain why the Christian church in the West is in such bad shape today.

A few believers who have already seen the film mentioned that it did not end with a call to repentance. My reply to them would be this: every Christian film does not need an altar call at the end to round it off. Even the Apostle Paul did not always do so – see his outreach at Athens for example. And the gospel message was certainly presented throughout the film nonetheless.

So please, if you can, go see the Strobel film. You will be glad you did, and your faith will be greatly strengthened along the way – mentally as well as emotionally.

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The post The Case for Christ appeared first on CultureWatch.

A Monument to Biblical Truth

Genesis 6:13-8:19

Code: B170508

Scientists and other secular authorities are adamant: A global flood—like the one described in Genesis 6-8—is impossible. They deny it with the same tenacious antagonism they bring to the topic of creation, or any of God’s other miraculous works. Second only to their attacks on the creation account, the prophets and priests of naturalism want to delegitimize and dismiss anything to do with the flood and Noah’s ark.

But the world’s opposition to biblical truth should not take us by surprise. What might, however, is the damage the church has done by blurring fact and fiction about Noah, his ark, and God’s miraculous work. We’re all familiar with toys, story books, and Sunday school teaching aids that depict Noah’s ark as little more than a floating bathtub overstuffed with zoo animals. But we rarely—if ever—consider how those images undercut and undermine the biblical account of God’s judgment and saving work during the flood.

To be fair, even the most detailed flannelgraphs would fail to capture the immensity of the ark. Its divinely designed dimensions were vast (Genesis 6:14-16), even by modern standards. But by settling for less than the specificity of Scripture, the church has unwittingly aided Satan’s attempts to dismiss the whole thing is as little more than a fairy tale.

That’s what makes the latest venture by our friends at Answers in Genesis so tremendously valuable to the church. The Ark Encounter—which opened just over a year ago in Williamstown, Kentucky—is a stunning monument to biblical truth, and a tremendous encouragement against the assaults of naturalism and other secular worldviews.

It was quite sobering to stand in the shadow of the ark. As the largest timber structure in the world, it is taller than a four-story building, and longer than one and a half football fields. It’s clear from the outset that they did not cut any corners. Much the opposite, in fact—the point of the project is to show in vivid and precise detail how the biblical ark was sufficient to protect and house Noah, his family, and two of every kind of animal, along with enough food and water for all of them to survive the voyage (Genesis 6:18-21).

And while the exterior of the ark takes your breath away, inside is where the experience becomes truly profound. We’ve all seen how secular museums attempt to depict the circumstances of prehistoric mankind through life-size dioramas. Visitors to the Ark Encounter get to step inside those types of displays, fully immersed into what life on the ark might have been like. Rows and rows of cages, baskets, and pots give you a vivid sense of the living and working conditions aboard the ark.

But it’s more than just a static simulation. The folks at Answers in Genesis have designed every element of the ark with apologetics in mind, anticipating and answering the questions and complaints of flood deniers. We saw multiple displays that gave plausible and detailed explanations for everything from sourcing clean water to disposing of waste—all of it painting a convincing picture of how the ark could have functioned as a gigantic life raft for a full year. Other displays show how true empirical science validates a global flood, but how scientists prefer unverifiable explanations that involve millions of years.

All of those features testified to the thoroughness of the project. They provided helpful answers for practical objections. In that sense, every inch of the place makes an argument for the truth of the biblical narrative.

However, the dominant theme of the Ark Encounter is not the ark itself, or even the Genesis account on which it is based. Instead, the ark and virtually all its exhibits are designed to point visitors to the Person and work of Jesus Christ. And that’s appropriate, given the unmistakable parallels between the ark and the gospel.

For example, the enduring image from our visit to the Ark Encounter is the solitary door fitted on the side of the giant ship. That door represented the only means of escape from God’s judgment against the pre-flood world. Likewise, the only refuge sinners have from God’s coming judgment is the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. John 10:9). Only through Him is there hope of salvation.

It is only fitting then, that the Ark Encounter continually points its visitors to the ark God has provided for us in Christ. Gospel truth is woven into virtually every display, culminating with an overt evangelistic presentation. And that’s how it should be, since the truth of biblical history is not an end in itself. All of Scripture points to Christ; likewise, the Ark Encounter puts the focus on the completed work of the Savior.

In that sense, the ark itself can be a great encouragement to believers—it certainly was during our visit. But its true purpose is to help open the eyes of critics and unbelievers. It’s not merely about persuading visitors that a global flood could have happened—it’s aimed at convincing lost sinners of the accuracy and reliability of God’s truth, and pointing them to the pinnacle of His revelation: His Son.

In simple terms, think of it as an enormous and elaborate gospel tract that you can walk through. It’s our prayer that many will visit the Ark Encounter in the years to come, and that God will use it to illuminate hearts and rescue lost souls for the sake of His kingdom.

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170508
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Barna Update | Competing Worldviews Influence Today’s Christians

In partnership with Summit Ministries, Barna conducted a study among practicing Christians in America to gauge how much the tenets of other key worldviews—including new spirituality, secularism, postmodernism and Marxism—have influenced Christians’ beliefs about the way the world is and how it ought to be.

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May 9, 2017: Verse of the day

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“I Am the Light of the World”

John 8:12

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

It is not an accident that the claim of the Lord Jesus Christ to be the light of the world occurs immediately after the story of the woman taken in adultery, the story that introduces the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel.

The story of the woman taken in adultery may not have been in the original text of John’s Gospel, that is, in the first copy of the book as John wrote it. But whether it was there initially or not, few can doubt that the place where it finally was put was well chosen; for it follows well on the failure of an original plan by the rulers of Israel to arrest Jesus, and leads naturally into Christ’s statement about being the light of the world. The story of the woman and her accusers is a greater revelation of the dark nature of sin than anything yet recorded in John’s Gospel, and in it the purity and brightness of Jesus shine through abundantly.

It is appropriate to turn from the story itself to hear the Lord say, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12).

Jesus already has been described as light in John’s Gospel. In the opening chapter John wrote, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (v. 4). He spoke of the light six times in that context. In chapter 3 there is a similar reference. John said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (v. 19). This verse and those immediately following refer to light five times in reference to Jesus. In each of these cases the image is in John’s words only, however. So we read these verses and, if we have not read further, we find ourselves asking, “But why does John refer to Jesus in this way? Where did he get this image? How did he develop this idea?” It is only when we get to our present text that we discover the answer. John refers to Jesus as the light because Jesus referred to himself as the light. Indeed, John obviously remembered this and so developed the images even further in this Gospel and in 1 John.

Jesus’ claim to be the world’s light is the second of the seven great “I am” sayings that are a unique feature of this book. The others are: “I am the bread of life” (6:35), “I am the gate” (10:7, 9), “I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14), “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25), “I am the way and the truth and the life” (14:6), and “I am the true vine” (15:1, 5).

The Cloud in the Desert

If we are to understand the full import of what Jesus was claiming when he claimed to be the light of the world, we must understand this verse in terms of that to which Jesus was undoubtedly referring. This is particularly important because it is not what we would most naturally think. We read this verse—“I am the light of the world”—and we think of the sun. Indeed, we are encouraged to do that by uses of this image elsewhere, as in Malachi where the coming Messiah is spoken of as the “sun of righteousness … with healing in its wings.” This is not a bad thing to do. There is even much to be learned from it. But it is not the image Jesus is using in John 8:12.

To understand what Jesus had in mind as he spoke to the people we must remember that these words were spoken shortly after the Feast of Tabernacles in the courtyard of the temple area (v. 20) where the ceremonies that were a part of that feast were conducted.

We already have noted one of these ceremonies. On each morning of the eight-day feast the priests of Israel joined in a procession to the pool of Siloam from which they drew water in golden pitchers. Then, returning to the temple area, they poured this water upon the altar of sacrifice. As they did this the people, many of whom accompanied the priests, sang and chanted. One verse used was Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Another was Psalm 114:7–8: “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.” The use of Psalm 114 shows that the ceremony was conceived primarily as a remembrance of God’s provision of water for the people of Israel during the years of their wilderness wandering, though it also pointed forward to the spiritual water that men would draw from God in the day of God’s future visitation. It was probably at the high point of this ceremony that Jesus broke into the festivities by crying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37–38).

The second ceremony was similar. On the first night of the feast, and probably on succeeding nights also, after the sun had set, two great lamps were lighted in the courts of the temple. These were said to have cast their light over every quarter of the city. The lamps were meant to recall the pillar of cloud and fire that had accompanied the people in their wanderings in the desert. This was the cloud that had appeared on the day when the people left Egypt and had stood between the Israelites and the pursuing armies of the Egyptians the night before the crossing of the Red Sea. It kept the Jewish people from being attacked. Later it guided the people through the wilderness. It also spread out over them to give shade by day and light and warmth by night. I believe that it was in clear reference to the ceremony of lighting the lamps and naturally, therefore, also to the miraculous cloud itself that Jesus referred when he claimed to be this world’s light.

This conclusion is supported by the fact that if it is so, then we have a striking succession of three great wilderness images in chapters 6, 7, and 8 of John’s Gospel. In 6, Jesus is the new manna sent down from heaven. In 7, he is the water miraculously provided from the rock. In 8, he is the cloud. We therefore turn to the cloud itself and to its functions in order to determine the full meaning of this second of the “I am” sayings in John’s Gospel.

God’s Presence

Why was the cloud important? The most obvious way in which the cloud was important was that it symbolized God’s presence with the people. This would be obvious from the fact that the cloud gave off light. For in an age that did not know an abundance of artificial light, light would always suggest God’s presence. Besides, the cloud was so huge and so striking that this in itself would suggest a theophany.

We see this in the texts that refer to this unique phenomenon. For instance, the first reference to the cloud in the Old Testament clearly identifies the presence of the Lord with it. “By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night” (Exod. 13:21–22). Other passages tell us that God spoke from the cloud and that he sometimes broke forth from it in judgment upon the sins of the people. In one striking passage the cloud is even addressed as God, for God is said to have raised himself up when the cloud rose and to have descended when the cloud descended. “Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Rise up, O Lord! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.’ Whenever it came to rest, he said, ‘Return, O LORD, to the countless thousands of Israel’ ” (Num. 10:35–36). At no time in their wandering were the people of Israel able to forget that the presence of God went with them and overshadowed them in all they did.

Apply this now to the claim of the Lord Jesus Christ. Long years before, the cloud of God’s glory had departed from Israel. It once had filled the Holy of Holies of the temple before which Christ was standing. Now the innermost shrine was empty, and even the lamps that commemorated the departed cloud had gone out. In this context and against this background Jesus cried, “I am the light of the world. I am the cloud. I am God with you.” Here was God once again with his people.

Have you found God in Jesus? Is Jesus, God with you? There is no other place in which you may find him. Come to him if you have never done so, and learn to say with John and the believers of all ages: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Protection

Second, the cloud was important in that it was the primary means by which God protected the people. Without it the people would have perished many years before they entered Canaan, either from their human enemies like Pharoah and his armies or from the natural dangers of the desert.

We must remember at this point that when the people of Israel left Egypt there were probably about two million of them. The Bible says that there were 600,000 men, but, of course, wives and children need to be added to that number. This vast company of people was being led out into a desert region that, as anyone who has ever been there can tell you, is one of the most inhospitable regions on earth. In the daytime the temperature can easily reach 140 or 150 degrees, and at night it can fall below freezing. To survive in such a region the vast host of Israel needed water and a shelter from the sun. The rock, which Moses was instructed to smite with his rod, provided water. Shelter was provided by the cloud, which spread out over the camp of the people to give them protection. Without this special and miraculous provision the people would have died.

We sing about God’s protection of the people in one of our hymns, a hymn that many who sing it probably do not understand.

Round each habitation hov’ring,

See the cloud and fire appear

For a glory and a cov’ring,

Showing that the Lord is near!

Thus, deriving from their banner

Light by night and shade by day,

Safe they feed upon the manna

Which he gives them when they pray.

In the same way the Lord Jesus Christ is a protector for all who come to him and follow him.

The Moving of the Cloud

Third, the cloud was important because it was the primary means by which God guided the people while they were in the desert. There were few, if any, landmarks in the desert, and the people would not have recognized landmarks even if they had seen them. Besides, the heat of the desert produces mirages, distorts distances, and makes most terrains indistinguishable. How were the people to find their way? How were they to avoid wandering into hostile territory or around in circles? The answer God gave was the cloud. When the cloud moved they were to move; indeed, they had to move, for if they had remained where they were they would soon have died from the heat of the desert by day or from the cold at night. When the cloud remained in one place, they remained.

One long passage in Numbers makes this particularly clear. “Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses” (Num. 9:17–23).

We can easily see how this applies to Christ’s statement. For when he claimed to be the light of the world in clear reference to the cloud of Israel’s wandering, he was claiming not only that he was God with his people, or that he was the one who would protect them, but also that he is the one who gives guidance. Thus, when Jesus moves before us we are to move. When he abides in one place we, too, are to remain there.

Moreover, we are to avoid two errors. The first error is to be overly hasty in following him; that is, to follow so closely upon the moving of the cloud that we mistake its moving and find ourselves going in another direction. If we tend to make this mistake, we must remember that there was to be a clear space between the guiding ark over which the cloud rose and the people—about “two thousand cubits” (three-fifths of a mile)—that there be no mistakes about the road. Alexander Maclaren, who writes on this theme, observes, “It is neither reverent nor wise to be treading on the heels of our Guide in our eager confidence that we know where He wants us to go.”

On the other hand, we are not to be slow either. For, as Maclaren states, we are not to “let the warmth by the camp-fire, or the pleasantness of the shady place where [our] tent is pitched, keep [us] there when the cloud lifts.” The only place of true blessing is under the shadow of God’s presence.

Will You Follow?

To summarize: When the Lord Jesus Christ claimed to be the light of the world he was claiming to be these three things for his people—God with them, the source of protection, and the One who guides. These are great claims. But we must not overlook the fact that they are only for those who follow him. He said, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” To follow Christ is almost synonomous with believing in Christ; for in another, parallel passage Jesus uses the same image in declaring, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46). Faith in Christ is following Christ, or at least leads to following Christ. And following Christ is possible only for those who have faith in him.

Do you have faith in Christ? Are you following him? You should; for if you are, you have Christ’s promise that you will no longer be walking in darkness but will possess the light of life. The last phrase is another way of saying that you will possess Christ himself, who thereafter will become all things to you. The Bible says that he is made unto us “righteousness, holiness, and redemption,” and that it is a joy to follow him (1 Cor. 1:30).[1]


The Assertion

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (8:12)

As noted in the previous chapter of this volume, the word again appears to link this passage with 7:37–52, rather than 7:53–8:11, likely not in the original. More important, this is the second of seven “I am” statements in John’s gospel that reveal different facets of Christ’s nature as God and His work as Savior (cf. the discussion of 6:35 in chapter 20 of this volume). John had already used the metaphor of light to describe Jesus (1:4, 8–9; cf. Rev. 21:23), and it was one rich in Old Testament allusions (cf. Ex. 13:21–22; 14:19–20; Neh. 9:12, 19; Pss. 27:1; 36:9; 43:3; 44:3; 104:2; 119:105, 130; Prov. 6:23; Isa. 60:19–20; Ezek. 1:4, 13, 26–28; Mic. 7:8; Hab. 3:3–4; Zech. 14:5b–7).

By claiming to be the Light of the world Jesus was clearly claiming to be God (cf. Ps. 27:1; Isa. 60:19; 1 John 1:5) and to be Israel’s Messiah, sent by God as the “light to the nations” (Isa. 42:6; cf. 49:6; Mal. 4:2).

Jesus Christ alone brings the light of salvation to a sin-cursed world. To the darkness of falsehood He is the light of truth; to the darkness of ignorance He is the light of wisdom; to the darkness of sin He is the light of holiness; to the darkness of sorrow He is the light of joy; and to the darkness of death He is the light of life.

The analogy of light, as with Jesus’ earlier use of the metaphor of living water (7:37–39), was particularly relevant to the Feast of Tabernacles. The daily water-pouring ceremony had its nightly counterpart in a lamp-lighting ceremony. In the very Court of the Women where Jesus was speaking, four huge candelabra were lit, pushing light up into the night sky like a searchlight. So brilliant was their light that one ancient Jewish source declared, “There was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that did not reflect [their] light” (cited in F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 206 n. 1). They served as a reminder of the pillar of fire by which God had guided Israel in the wilderness (Ex. 13:21–22). The people—even the most dignified leaders—danced exuberantly around the candelabra through the night, holding blazing torches in their hands and singing songs of praise. It was against the backdrop of that ceremony that Jesus made the stunning announcement that He is the true Light of the world.

But unlike the temporary and stationary candelabra, Jesus is a light that never goes out and a light to be followed. Just as Israel followed the pillar of fire in the wilderness (Ex. 40:36–38), so Jesus called men to follow Him (John 1:43; 10:4, 27; 12:26; 21:19, 22; Matt. 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21). The one who follows Him, Jesus promised, will not walk in the darkness of sin, the world, and Satan, but will have the Light that produces spiritual life (cf. 1:4; Pss. 27:1; 36:9; Isa. 49:6; Acts 13:47; 2 Cor. 4:4–6; Eph. 5:14; 1 John 1:7). Having been illumined by Jesus, believers reflect His light in the dark world (Matt. 5:14; Eph. 5:8; Phil. 2:15; 1 Thess. 5:5); “They, having kindled their torches at His bright flame, show to the world something of His light” (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979], 438).

Akoloutheō (follows) is sometimes used in a general sense to speak of the crowds who followed Jesus (e.g., 6:2; Matt. 4:25; 8:1; 12:15; Mark 2:15; 3:7; Luke 7:9; 9:11). But it can also refer, more specifically, to following Him as a true disciple (e.g., 1:43; 10:4, 27; 12:26; Matt. 4:20, 22; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:27; Mark 9:38). In that context, it has the connotation of complete submission to Jesus as Lord. God does not accept a half-hearted following of Christ—of receiving Him as Savior, but not following Him as Lord. The person who comes to Jesus comes to Him on His terms, or he does not come at all—a truth Jesus illustrated in Matthew 8:18–22:

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”

An even more striking illustration of that principle is found in Jesus’ dialogue with the rich young ruler:

A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother.’ ” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” (Luke 18:18–27)

In a shocking contradiction of contemporary evangelistic principles, Jesus actually turned away an eager prospect. But the Lord was not interested in making salvation artificially easy for people, but genuine. He wanted their absolute allegiance, obedience, and submission. In Luke 9:23–24 He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (For a discussion of the biblical view of the lordship of Christ, see John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, rev. ed. [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], and The Gospel According to the Apostles [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993.)

Following Christ is not burdensome, as walking in the light illustrates. It is far easier than stumbling around in the dark (cf. Jer. 13:16). [2]


8:12. Again, therefore, Jesus spoke to them saying, I am the light of the world.

According to many this is the continuation of 7:37–52. It must be granted that such a connection is, indeed, possible. One might reason as follows: he who according to 7:37, 38 represents himself as being living water for the thirsty one, reveals himself here (in 8:12) as light for those who sit in darkness. So rich and glorious is he that not a single name can describe him, and not a single metaphor can do justice to his greatness. He is life, light, bread, water, etc.

Others, however, see a very close connection between the story of the adulteress (7:53–8:11) and the present paragraph (8:12 ff.). They reason that Jesus, by dispelling the moral darkness which reigned in the heart of this woman (if, indeed, it was dispelled!), gave an illustration of his work as the light of the world. We do not have sufficient information to make a definite choice between these alternatives. The decision would depend on the authenticity of 7:53–8:11, which has been discussed.

Jesus is again addressing the people in the temple. To them he says, “I am the light of the world.” This is the second of the seven great “I Am’s.” For the entire list see Vol. I, p. 37. This second “I Am” is similar in grammatical structure to the first (see our explanation of 6:35). Hence, also in this case subject and predicate (the latter preceded by the article) are interchangeable. Jesus is the light of the world; the light of the world is Jesus. He himself in person is that light. He—no one else beside him—is that light, for it is only in and through him that God’s glorious attributes shine forth most brilliantly in the midst of the world.

The meaning of Christ as light has been set forth in connection with 1:4 and 1:9. That Jesus represents himself (here in 8:12) as the light of the world indicates that in the midst of sin-laden mankind, exposed to the judgment and in need of salvation, mankind in all its phases (both Jew and Gentile, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, free and slave), he stands forth as the source of men’s illumination regarding spiritual matters and of the everlasting salvation of God’s children. To all who come within hearing he proclaims the Gospel of deliverance from sin and never-ending peace. On the concept world (κόσμος) see the explanation of 1:10.

Jesus is the light of the world; i.e., to the ignorant he proclaims wisdom; to the impure, holiness; to those in sadness, gladness. Moreover, to those who by sovereign grace are drawn (6:44) to the light and follow its guidance he not only proclaims but actually imparts these blessings.

But not all follow where the light leads. There is a separation, a parting of the ways, an absolute antithesis, as is clear from the words, “He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” Some follow the light; many do not. Many are called; few are chosen.

To follow the light, Christ, means to trust and obey him. It means to believe in him and out of gratitude to keep his commandments. Man must follow where the light leads: he is not permitted to map out his own course through the desert of this life. In the wilderness the forefathers had followed the pillar of light. The symbolism of the feast of Tabernacles (now in progress or just ended) reminded the audience of this light which the ancestors had enjoyed as a guide. Those who had followed it and had not rebelled against its guidance had reached Canaan. The others had died in the desert. So it is here: the true followers not only will not walk in the darkness of moral and spiritual ignorance, of impurity, and of gloom, but will reach the land of light. Nay more: they will have the light! The Antitype is ever richer than the type. Physical light—for example, that of the pillar of light in the desert or that of the candelabra in the Court of the Women—imparts outward illumination. This light, Jesus Christ as the object of our faith, becomes our inner possession: we have him, and this abidingly; cf. 4:14. He is, moreover, the light of life (τὸ φῶς τῆς ζωῆς). In harmony with what was said in connection with 1:4b we regard this as a genitive of apposition: the light is itself the life, when the latter is made manifest.[3]


12 On the basis that the section on the woman caught in adultery (7:53–8:11) is not part of the Johannine corpus, it would appear that the audience to whom Jesus speaks in v. 12 are the Pharisees. (The NIV’s “the people” is an arbitrary interpretation of the Greek autois, “them”; NASB, “to them”.) That the very next verse speaks of the Pharisees supports this connection. In fact, it is interesting that while the crowd (ochlos, GK 4063) is mentioned eight times in ch. 7, the designation does not occur again until 11:42 (NIV, “people”). In ch. 8 Jesus deals exclusively with his Jewish adversaries.

Apparently the Feast of Tabernacles is over and the crowds have returned to their homes. This observation has significance for the context of Jesus’ famous revelatory declaration, “I am the light of the world.” It is customary to point out that during the festival four huge lamps in the court of the women were lit and illuminated the entire temple precincts. It was a time of enthusiastic celebration, with men dancing all night, holding torches and singing (m. Sukkah 5:1–4). The celebration of light reminded the worshipers of Israel’s wilderness journey, when they were led at night by a pillar of fire (Ex 13:21; Ne 9:12). Supposedly it was during this time of celebration that Jesus declared himself to be the “light of the world.” However, if the festival were already past, this particular background would no longer be an option.

So what is the conceptual background of Jesus’ declaration? The OT is rich in its many uses of “light” as a metaphor for spiritual illumination and life. “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” sang the psalmist (Ps 27:1). “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Ps 119:105). The prophet Isaiah promised Israel that in the coming age the Lord himself would be their “everlasting light” (Isa 60:19; cf. Rev 22:5). While in the OT, light and darkness are not portrayed as set over against one another as principles of good and evil (as they are in John), this dualism is prevalent in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in which the Essenes (“the sons of light”) are guided by a good spirit (“the prince of lights”) but opposed by an evil spirit (“the angel of darkness” [1QS 3.20–21]).

In Greek thought, darkness was often associated with ignorance and death, while light symbolized life and happiness. It would appear from the universal recognition of light as a metaphor for what is good (in contrast with darkness, which stands for evil) that Jesus’ claim to be “the light of the world” would not require a specific contextual background in order to be understood. It may well be that something as simple as the rising of the sun as he spoke gave rise to this the second of his great “I am” statements. In any case, Jesus goes on to promise that those who follow him need never “walk in darkness.” As the Israelites were led unerringly throughout the night by the pillar of fire, so also can the NT believer escape the darkness of this evil world by following the person and teachings of Jesus Christ. To follow him means to obey him. Christians need walk no longer in the darkness of sin. The light, which is life in Christ, will guide them to the Promised Land.[4]


[1] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 613–618). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (pp. 333–336). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Vol. 2, pp. 40–42). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, pp. 473–474). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 9 – Building a Leader: The Right Lessons (Peter)

The twelve apostles included “Simon, who is called Peter” (Matt. 10:2).

✧✧✧

Peter learned five lessons that every believer must also learn.

We have seen that God uses our experiences to mold us into more effective Christians and leaders. Using Peter as our example, let’s briefly look at five lessons we can learn from our experiences—submission, restraint, humility, sacrifice, and love.

Leaders tend to be confident and aggressive, so they must learn to submit to authority. Jesus illustrated that by telling Peter to go fishing and to look for a coin in the mouth of the first fish he caught (Matt. 17:24–27). He was to use that coin to pay their taxes. Peter was a citizen of God’s Kingdom, but he needed an object lesson in submitting to governmental authorities.

When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter grabbed a sword and would have fought the entire group if Jesus hadn’t restrained him. Peter needed to learn to entrust His life to the Father, just as Christ was doing.

Peter bragged that he would never leave or forsake Christ—but he did. Perhaps humility was the most painful lesson he had to learn.

Jesus told Peter that he would die as a martyr (John 21:18–19). From that day forward Peter knew his life was on the line, and yet he was willing to make the necessary sacrifice and minister anyway.

Leaders tend to be task-oriented and often are insensitive to people. Peter was that way, so Jesus demonstrated love by washing his feet and by instructing him to do loving deeds for others (John 13:6–9, 34).

Submission, restraint, humility, sacrifice, and love should be characteristic of every believer—no matter what role he or she has within the Body of Christ. I pray they are characteristic of your life, and that you will constantly seek to grow in those graces as God continues His work in you.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Spiritual lessons are sometimes painful to learn, but God is patient and gracious. Thank Him for His patience, and thank Him also for Christ, who is the perfect example of what we should be.

For Further Study: Peter learned his lessons well. Read 1 Peter 2:13–18, 21–23; 4:8, 16; and 5:5. What can you learn from Peter’s instructions on submission, restraint, love, sacrifice, and humility?[1]


10:2 the names of the twelve apostles. The 12 are always listed in a similar order (cf. Mk 3:16–19; Lk 6:13–16; Ac 1:13). Peter is always named first. The list contains 3 groups of 4. The 3 subgroups are always listed in the same order, and the first name in each subgroup is always the same, though there is some variation in the order within the subgroups—but Judas Iscariot is always named last. Peter … Andrew … James … John. The first subgroup of 4 are the most familiar to us. These two sets of brothers, all fishermen, represent an inner circle of disciples often seen closest to Jesus (see note on 17:1).[2]


10:2 Apostles (plural of Gk. apostolos; used only here in Matthew; see note on Rom. 1:1) describes those commissioned to be Jesus’ special representatives, while “disciples” (Matt. 10:1) was also used more broadly to refer to anyone who believed in Jesus. Peter heads all the lists of the Twelve (cf. Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:13–16; Acts 1:13) and serves as their spokesman. Peter, along with James and John, made up Jesus’ inner circle.[3]


10:2 the twelve apostles Matthew initially refers to this group as disciples. Here, he calls them “apostles”—those who are sent out with the authority of the sender (Jesus).

No explicit reason is given here for the choice of 12 disciples, but it may have been in part to reflect the fact that there were twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew later presents the 12 disciples as Israel’s new leaders (19:28).[4]


10:2 apostles. The Gk. word apostolos designates an authorized representative or emissary whose word has the authority of the sender (cf. 2 Cor. 8:23, where it is translated “messengers,” and 2 Cor. 1:1 note). Here the Twelve receive authority to do exactly what Jesus has been doing (vv. 7, 8).[5]


10:2 In the early church an “apostle” (apostolos, Gk.) is a representative of the authority of the risen Lord. The term describes the function of the Twelve (cf. Mark 3:14–19; Luke 6:13–16; John 1:40–49) who are sent out by Jesus. The Twelve made up the body of authoritative leaders in the church. James, the brother of Jesus (Gal. 1:19), Silvanus (1 Thess. 1:1), Andronicus and Junia (Rom. 16:7), Barnabas and Paul (Acts 14:4, 14), and others are designated “apostles,” though not in the same technical sense that the Twelve are. Peter specifies that an apostle must be an eyewitness of Jesus’ life and activity from the time of His baptism to the resurrection/ascension (Acts 1:22).[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 142). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 10:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1839). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Mt 10:2). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1687). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[6] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Mt 10:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

MAY 9 – QUESTIONS WE ASK

A living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1

I am convinced that anyone who brings up the question of consequences in the Christian life is only a mediocre and common Christian!

I have known some who were interested in the deeper life but began asking questions: “What will it cost me—in terms of time, in money, in effort, in the matter of my friendships?” Others ask of the Lord when He calls them to move forward: “Will it be safe?” This question comes out of our constant bleating about security and our everlasting desire for safety above all else.

A third question that we want Him to answer is: “Will it be convenient?”

What must our Lord think of us if His work and His witness depend upon the security and the safety and the convenience of His people? No element of sacrifice, no bother, no disturbance—so we are not getting anywhere with God!

We have stopped and pitched our tent halfway between the swamp and the peak. We are mediocre Christians.

Lord, I pray for Christians in other countries who face persecution as a routine event. Protect and strengthen them, Father. May many come to know Christ as a result of the testimony of believers who remain faithful to You.[1]


The Body Must Be Given to God

to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (12:1b)

The second and consequent element of presenting ourselves to God is that of offering Him our bodies. After it is implied that believers have given their souls to God through faith in Jesus Christ, they are specifically called to present their bodies to Him as a living and holy sacrifice.

In the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament), paristēmi (to present) was often used as a technical term for a priest’s placing an offering on the altar. It therefore carried the general idea of surrendering or yielding up. As members of God’s present “holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5), Christians are here exhorted to perform what is essentially a priestly act of worship. Because the verb is in the imperative, the exhortation carries the weight of a command.

The first thing we are commanded to present to God is our bodies. Because our souls belong to God through salvation, He already has the inner man. But He also wants the outer man, in which the inner man dwells.

Our bodies, however, are more than physical shells that house our souls. They are also where our old, unredeemed humanness resides. In fact, our humanness is a part of our bodies, whereas our souls are not. Our bodies incorporate our humanness, our humanness incorporates our flesh, and our flesh incorporates our sin, as Romans 6 and 7 so clearly explain.

Our bodies therefore encompass not only our physical being but also the evil longings of our mind, emotions, and will. “For while we were in the flesh,” Paul informs us, “the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death” (Rom 7:5). Long after he was saved, however, the apostle confessed, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:22–23). In other words, the redeemed soul must reside in a body of flesh that is still the beachhead of sin, a place that can readily be given to unholy thoughts and longings. It is that powerful force within our “mortal bodies” that tempts and lures us to do evil. When they succumb to the impulses of the fleshly mind, our “mortal bodies” again become instruments of sin and unrighteousness.

It is a fearful thing to consider that, if we allow them to, our fallen and unredeemed bodies are still able to thwart the impulses of our  redeemed and eternal souls. The body is still the center of sinful desires, emotional depression, and spiritual doubts. Paul gives insight into that sobering reality when he said, “I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). In order to maintain a holy life and testimony and to minister effectively, even the great apostle had to exert himself strongly and continually in order to control the human and sinful part of himself that persistently wanted to rule and corrupt his life and his work for the Lord. In Romans 8, we learned that he had to kill the flesh. Paul also said that God had given him a “thorn,” or a stake, on which to impale his otherwise proud flesh (2 Cor. 12:7).

It is helpful to understand that dualistic Greek philosophy still dominated the Roman world in New Testament times. This pagan ideology considered the spirit, or soul, to be inherently good and the body to be inherently evil. And because the body was deemed worthless and would eventually die anyway, what was done to it or with it did not matter. For obvious reasons, that view opened the door to every sort of immorality. Tragically, many believers in the early church, who have many counterparts in the church today, found it easy to fall back into the immoral practices of their former lives, justifying their sin by the false and heretical idea that what the body did could not harm the soul and had no spiritual or eternal significance. Much as in our own day, because immorality was so pervasive, many Christians who did not themselves lead immoral lives became tolerant of sin in fellow believers, thinking it merely was the flesh doing what it naturally did, completely apart from the soul’s influence or responsibility.

Yet Paul clearly taught that the body can be controlled by the redeemed soul. He told the sinful Corinthians that the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body” (1 Cor. 6:11–13).

Scripture makes clear that God created the body as good (Genesis), and that, despite their continuing corruption by sin, the bodies of redeemed souls will also one day be redeemed and sanctified. Even now, our unredeemed bodies can and should be made slaves to the power of our redeemed souls.

As with our souls, the Lord created our bodies for Himself, and, in this life, He cannot work through us without in some way working through our bodies. If we speak for Him, it must be through our mouths. If we read His Word, it must be with our eyes (or hands for those who are blind). If we hear His Word it must be through our ears. If we go to do His work, we must use our feet, and if we help others in His name, it must be with our hands. And if we think for Him, it must be with our minds, which now reside in our bodies. There can be no sanctification, no holy living, apart from our bodies. That is why Paul prayed, “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul  and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23).

It is because our bodies are yet unredeemed that they must be yielded continually to the Lord. It was also for that reason that Paul warned, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts” (Rom. 6:12). Paul then gave a positive admonition similar to the one found in our text (12:1), preceded by its negative counterpart: “Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13). Under God’s control, our unredeemed bodies can and should become instruments of righteousness.

Paul rhetorically asked the believers at Corinth, “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?” (1 Cor. 6:19). In other words, our unredeemed bodies are temporarily the home of God! It is because our bodies are still mortal and sinful that, “having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). Our spiritual “citizenship is in heaven,” Paul explained to the Philippians, “from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20–21).

We cannot prevent the remnants of sin from persisting in our mortal bodies. But we are able, with the Lord’s power, to keep that sin from ruling our bodies. Since we are given a new, Spirit-indwelt nature through Christ, sin cannot reign in our souls. And it should not reign in our bodies (Rom. 8:11). Sin will not reign “if by the Spirit [we] are putting to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13; cf. 6:16). (For a complete discussion of Romans 6–8, see the Romans 1–8 volume in this commentary series.)

Paul admonishes us, by God’s mercies, to offer our imperfect but useful bodies to the Lord as a living and holy sacrifice. As noted above, Paul uses the language of the Old Testament ritual offerings in the Tabernacle and Temple, the language of the Levitical priesthood. According to the Law, a Jew would bring his offering of an animal to the priest, who would take it, slay it, and place it on the altar in behalf of the person who brought it.

But the sacrifices required by the Law are no longer of any effect, not even symbolic effect, because, “When Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but  through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:11–12).

Sacrifices of dead animals are no longer acceptable to God. Because the Lamb of God was sacrificed in their place, the redeemed of the Lord are now to offer themselves, all that they are and have, as living sacrifices. The only acceptable worship under the New Covenant is the offering of oneself to God.

From the very beginning, God’s first and most important requirement for acceptable worship has been a faithful and obedient heart. It was because of his faith, not because of his material offering, that “Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain” (Heb. 11:4). It is because God’s first desire is for a faithful and obedient heart that Samuel rebuked King Saul for not completely destroying the Amalekites and their animals and for allowing the Israelites to sacrifice some of those animals to the Lord at Gilgal. The prophet said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22).

David, Saul’s successor to the throne, understood that truth. When confronted by the prophet Nathan concerning his adultery with Bathsheba, David did not offer an animal sacrifice but rather confessed, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17). David offered God his repentant heart as a living sacrifice—apart from outward, visible ceremony—and he was forgiven (2 Sam. 12:13).

A helpful illustration of the difference between a dead and a living sacrifice is the story of Abraham and Isaac. Isaac was the son of promise, the only heir through whom God’s covenant with Abraham could be fulfilled. He was miraculously conceived after Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was far past childbearing age. It could only be from Isaac that God’s chosen nation, whose citizens would be as numberless as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the seashore (Gen. 15:5; 22:17), could descend. But when Isaac was a young man, probably in his late teens, God commanded Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you” (Gen. 22:2). Without question or hesitation, Abraham immediately began to obey. After reaching Moriah and having tied Isaac to the altar, Abraham was ready to plunge the knife into his beloved son’s heart.

Had he carried out that sacrifice, Isaac would have been a dead offering, just like the sheep and rams that later would be offered on the Temple altar by the priests of Israel. Abraham would have been a living sacrifice, as it were, saying to God in effect, “I will obey you even if it means that I will live without my son, without my heir, without the hope  of your covenant promise being fulfilled.” But Isaac, the son of promise,would have been a dead sacrifice.

Hebrews 11:19 makes clear that Abraham was willing to slay Isaac because he was certain that God could raise him from the dead if necessary to keep His promise. Abraham was willing to commit absolutely everything to God and to trust Him, no matter how great the demand and how devastating the sacrifice, because God would be faithful.

God did not require either father or son to carry out the intended sacrifice. Both men already had offered the real sacrifice that God wanted—their willingness to give to Him everything they held dear.

The living sacrifice we are to offer to the Lord who died for us is the willingness to surrender to Him all our hopes, plans, and everything that is precious to us, all that is humanly important to us, all that we find fulfilling. Like Paul, we should in that sense “die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31), because for us “to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21). For the sake of his Lord and for the sake of those to whom he ministered, the apostle later testified, “Even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all” (Phil. 2:17).

Because Jesus Christ has already made the only dead sacrifice the New Covenant requires—the only sacrifice that has power to save men from eternal death—all that remains for worshipers today is the presentation of themselves as living sacrifices.

The story is told of a Chinese Christian who was moved with compassion when many of his countrymen were taken to work as coolies in South African mines. In order to be able to witness to his fellow Chinese, this prominent man sold himself to the mining company to work as a coolie for five years. He died there, still a slave, but not until he had won more than 200 men to Christ. He was a living sacrifice in the fullest sense.

In the mid-seventeenth century, a somewhat well-known Englishman was captured by Algerian pirates and made a slave. While a slave, he founded a church. When his brother arranged his release, he refused freedom, having vowed to remain a slave until he died in order to continue serving the church he had founded. Today a plaque in an Algerian church bears his name.

David Livingstone, the renowned and noble missionary to Africa, wrote in his journal,

People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of the great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward of healthful  activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter?

… Away with such a word, such a view, and such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering or danger now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not talk when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us. (Livingstone’s Private Journal: 1851–53, ed.. I. Schapera [London: Chatto & Windus, 1960], pp. 108, 132)

Like Livingstone, Christians who offer a living sacrifice of themselves usually do not consider it to be a sacrifice. And it is not a sacrifice in the common sense of losing something valuable. The only things we entirely give up for God—to be removed and destroyed—are sin and sinful things, which only bring us injury and death. But when we offer God the living sacrifice of ourselves, He does not destroy what we give Him but refines it and purifies it, not only for His glory but for our present and eternal good.

Our living sacrifice also is to be holy. Hagios (holy) has the literal sense of being set apart for a special purpose. In secular and pagan Greek society the word carried no idea of moral or spiritual purity. The manmade gods were as sinful and degraded as the men who made them, and there simply was no need for a word that represented righteousness. Like the Hebrew scholars who translated the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint), Christianity sanctified the term, using it to describe God, godly people, and godly things.

Under the Old Covenant, a sacrificial animal was to be without spot or blemish. That physical purity symbolized the spiritual and moral purity that God required of the offerer himself. Like that worshiper who was to come to God with “clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:4), the offering of a Christian’s body not only should be a living but also a holy sacrifice.

Through Malachi, the Lord rebuked those who sacrificed animals that were blind and otherwise impaired. “When you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” (Mal. 1:8). Those people were willing to give a second-rate offering to the Lord that they would not think of presenting as a gift or tax payment to a government official. They feared men more than God.

Although we have been counted righteous and are being made righteous because of salvation in Jesus Christ, we are not yet perfected in righteousness. It is therefore the Lord’s purpose for His church to “sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:25–27). That was also Paul’s purpose for those to whom he ministered. “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy,” he told the Corinthian Christians; “for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin” (2 Cor. 11:2).

Sadly, like those in Malachi’s day, many people today are perfectly willing to give God second best, the leftovers that mean little to them—and mean even less to Him.

Only a living and holy sacrifice, the giving of ourselves and the giving of our best, is acceptable to God. Only in that way can we give Him our spiritual service of worship.

Logikos (spiritual) is the term from which we get logic and logical. Our offerings to God are certainly to be spiritual, but that is not what Paul is speaking about at this point. Logikos also can be translated reasonable, as in the King James Version. The apostle is saying that, in light of “the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God” and of His “unsearchable… judgments and unfathomable…ways”; and because “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:33, 36), including His immeasurable “mercies” that we already have received (12:1a), our only reasonable—and by implication, spiritualservice of worship is to present God with all that we are and all that we have.

Service of worship translates the single Greek word latreia, which refers to service of any kind, the context giving it the added meaning of worship. Like paristēmi and hagios (mentioned above), latreia was used in the Greek Old Testament to speak of worshiping God according to the prescribed Levitical ceremonies, and it became part of the priestly, sacrificial language. The priestly service was an integral part of Old Testament worship. The writer of Hebrews uses latreia to describe the “divine worship” (9:6 NASB), or “service of God” (KJV), per-formed by Old Testament priests.

True worship does not consist of elaborate and impressive prayers, intricate liturgy, stained-glass windows, lighted candles, flowing robes, incense, and classical sacred music. It does not require great talent, skill, or leadership ability. Many of those things can be a part of the outward forms of genuine worship, but they are acceptable to God only if the heart and mind of the worshiper is focused on Him. The only spiritual service of worship that honors and pleases God is the sincere, loving, thoughtful, and heartfelt devotion and praise of His children.

During a conference in which I was preaching on the difference between true and false believers, a man came to me with tears running down his cheeks, lamenting, “I believe I’m a sham Christian.” I replied, “Let me ask you something. What is the deepest desire of your heart? What weighs heaviest on your heart? What occupies your mind and thoughts more than anything else?” He answered, “My greatest desire is to give all I am and have to Jesus Christ.” I said, “Friend, that is not the desire of a sham Christian. That is the Spirit-prompted desire of a redeemed soul to become a living sacrifice.”[2]


Dying, We Live

Romans 12:1

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

I do not like the word paradox used in reference to Christian teachings, because to most people the word refers to something that is self-contradictory or false. Christianity is not false. But the dictionary also defines paradox as a statement that seems to be contradictory yet may be true in fact, and in that sense there are paradoxes in Christianity. The most obvious is the doctrine of the Trinity. We speak of one God, but we also say that God exists in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We know the doctrine of the Trinity is true because God has revealed it to be true, but we are foolish if we think we can understand or explain it fully.

One of the great paradoxes of Christianity concerns the Christian life: We must die in order to live. We find this teaching many places in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament, but the basic, foundational statement is by Jesus, who said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23–24).

It was these words that inspired this well-known prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi:

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much

Seek to be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love.

For it is by giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is by dying that we are born to eternal life.

I would not vouch for the theology implied in each of those impassioned sentences, but as a statement of principles governing the Christian life they are helpful.

More important, they are an expression of what Paul sets down at the start of Romans 12 as a first principle for learning to live the Christian life—self-sacrifice. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” In Paul’s culture a sacrifice was always an animal that was presented to a priest to be killed. So Paul is saying by this striking metaphor that the Christian life begins by offering ourselves to God for death. The paradox is that by offering ourselves to God we are enabled to live for him.

Therefore, it is by dying that we are enabled to live, period. For as Jesus said, trying to live, if it is living for ourselves, is actually death, while dying to self is actually the way to full living. What should we call this paradox? I call it “life-by-dying” or, as I have titled this study, “Dying, We Live.”

Bought at a Price

This principle is so foundational to the doctrine of the Christian life that we must be very careful to lay it out correctly. After that we will go on to look at (1) the specific nature of this sacrifice, that it is an offering of our bodies presented to God as something holy and pleasing to him and (2) the specific motive for this sacrifice—why we should make it.

The first truth of this foundational teaching is that we are not our own but rather belong to Jesus, if we are truly Christians. Here is the way Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19–20). Again, just a chapter later, he says: “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). Then, if we ask what that price is, well, the apostle Peter tells us in his first letter: “You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18–19).

In that passage Peter uses the important word redemption, which means to buy back or to be bought again. It is one of the key words for describing what the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished for us by his death on the cross.

Since redemption refers to buying something or someone, the image is of a slave market in which we who are sinners are being offered to whomever will bid the highest price for us. The world is ready to bid, of course, particularly if we are attractive or in some other way seen as valuable. The world bids the world’s currency.

It bids fame. Some people sell their souls to be famous; they will do almost anything to become well-known.

It bids wealth. Millions think that making money is the most important thing any person can do; they think that money will buy anything.

It bids power. Masses of people are on a power trip. They will wheel and deal and cheat and even trample on others to get to the top of the pyramid. It bids sex. Many have lost nearly everything of value in life for just a moment’s indulgence.

But into the midst of this vast marketplace Jesus comes, and the price he bids to rescue enslaved sinners is his blood. He offers to die for them. God, who controls this auction, says, “Sold to the Lord Jesus Christ for the price of his blood.” As a result we become Jesus’ purchased possession and must live for him rather than ourselves, as Paul and Peter indicate.

The great preacher and biblical theologian John Calvin said rightly and precisely, “We are redeemed by the Lord for the purpose of consecrating ourselves and all our members to him.”

We need to remember that we are in the application section of Romans. Redemption was introduced earlier in the book, in chapter 3 (v. 24). So what we are finding here is an example of the truth that doctrine is practical and that practical material must be doctrinal if it is to be of any help at all. We are dealing with the practical question of “How should we then live?” But the very first thing to be said to explain how we should live is the meaning and implication of redemption. In other words, we cannot have true Christian living without the gospel.

Death to Our Past

Redemption from sin by Christ is not the only doctrine the Christian life of self-sacrifice is built on, however. A second truth is that we have died to the past by becoming new creatures in Christ, if we are truly converted. We studied this teaching in Romans 6, where Paul argued that because we have “died to sin” we are unable to “live in it any longer” (v. 2). Therefore, instead of offering the parts of our bodies “to sin, as instruments of wickedness,” as we used to do, we must instead offer ourselves “to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and … the parts of [our] bodies to him as instruments of righteousness” (Rom. 6:13).

When we studied this passage earlier I pointed out that it does not mean that we have become unresponsive to sin or that we should die to it or that we are dying to it day by day or that we have died to sin’s guilt. The verb die is an aorist, which refers to something that has been done once for all. Here it refers to the change that has come about as a result of our being saved. “We died to sin” means that as a result of our union with Jesus Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit we have become new creatures in Christ so that we can never go back to being what we were. We are to start the Christian life with that knowledge. If we cannot go back, then we must go forward.

Let me review this teaching by summarizing what I wrote in my study of Romans 6:11 in volume 2. Dying to sin does not mean:

  1. That it is my duty to die to sin.
  2. That I am commanded to die to sin.
  3. That I am to consider sin as a dead force within me.
  4. That I am dead to sin so long as I am gaining mastery over it.
  5. That sin in me has been eradicated.
  6. That counting myself dead to sin makes me insensitive to it.

What Paul is saying is that we have already died to sin in the sense that we cannot successfully return to our old lives. Therefore, since that is true, we might as well get on with the task of living for the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to forget about sinning and instead present our bodies as “living sacrifices” to God.

Dying to Live

The third foundational teaching for what it means to live by dying is the paradox itself, namely that it is by dying to our own desires in order to serve Christ that we actually learn to live.

It is not difficult to understand what this means. We understand only too well that dying to self means putting personal desires behind us in order to put the desires of God for us and the needs of other people first. We understand the promise too! If we do this, we will experience a full and rewarding life. We will be happy Christians. The problem is not with our understanding. The problem is that we do not believe it, or at least not in regard to ourselves. We think that if we deny ourselves, we will be miserable. Yet this is nothing less than disbelieving God. It is a failure of faith.

So I ask, Who are you willing to believe? Yourself, as reinforced by the world and its way of thinking? Or Jesus Christ?

I say Jesus specifically because I want to remind you of his teaching from the Sermon on the Mount. He speaks there about how to be happy. Indeed, the word is even stronger than that. It is the powerful word blessed, meaning to be favored by God:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3–10

We call these statements the Beatitudes, which means the way to happiness or blessing. But this is not the way the world thinks one finds happiness. If a director of one of today’s popular television sitcoms or the editor of a widely circulating fashion magazine were to rewrite the Beatitudes from a contemporary point of view, I suppose they would go like this: “Blessed are the rich, for they can have all they want; blessed are the powerful, for they can control others; blessed are the sexually liberated, for they can fully satisfy themselves; blessed are the famous, because they are envied.” Isn’t that the world’s way, the way even Christians sometimes try to go, rather than the way of sacrifice?

But think it through carefully. The world promises blessings for those who follow these standards. But is this what they find? Do they actually find happiness?

Take for example a person who thinks that the way to happiness is wealth. He sets his heart on earning one hundred thousand dollars. He gets it, but he is not happy. He raises his goal to two hundred thousand dollars. When he gets that he tries to accumulate a million dollars, but still he is not happy. John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest men in the world in his day, was asked on one occasion, “How much money is enough?”

He was honest enough to answer wryly, “Just a little bit more.”

A Texas millionaire once said, “I thought money could buy happiness. I have been miserably disillusioned.”

Another person thinks that he will find happiness through power, so he goes into politics, where he thinks power lies. He runs in a local election and wins. After that he sets his sight on a congressional seat, then on a place in the Senate. If he is talented enough and the circumstances are favorable, he wants to be president. But power never satisfies. One of the world’s great statesmen once told Billy Graham, “I am an old man. Life has lost all meaning. I am ready to take a fateful leap into the unknown.”

Still another person tries the path of sexual liberation. She launches into the swinging singles scene, where the average week consists of “happy hours,” Friday night parties, weekend overnight escapes into the country, and a rapid exchange of partners. But it does not work. Several years ago CBS did a television documentary on the swinging singles lifestyle in southern California, interviewing about half a dozen women who all said essentially the same thing: “We were told that this was the fun way to live, but all the men want to do is get in bed with you. We have had enough of that to last a lifetime.”

Does the world’s “me first” philosophy lead to happiness? Is personal indulgence the answer? You do not have to be a genius to see through that facade. It is an empty promise. Paul calls it “a lie” (Rom. 1:25).

So wake up, Christian. And listen to Paul when he pleads, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:1–2).

God does not lie. His word is utterly reliable. You will find his way to be “good, pleasing, and perfect” if you will bend to it.

The Victim and the Priest

That brings us to the fourth and final foundational truth. The first two concerned what God has done for us in redeeming us and joining us to Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit so that we become new creatures. The third point was the apparent paradox: life by dying. This last point is an urgent appeal for us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. This is not done for us. It is something we must do.

This is the “obedience that comes from faith” that Paul wrote about early in the letter, saying, “Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith” (Rom. 1:5). So again we are back to one of the great doctrinal teachings.

What an interesting mental picture Paul creates for us in Romans 12:1. A sacrifice is something offered to God by a priest. A priest would take a sacrifice offered by a worshiper, carry it to the altar, kill it, pour out the blood, and then burn the victim’s body. In that procedure the priest and the offering were two separate entities. But in this arresting image of what it is to live a genuinely Christian life, Paul shows that the priest and the offering are the same. Furthermore, we are the priests who present the offering, and the offerings we present are our own bodies.

Is there a model for this in Scripture? Of course. It is the model of Jesus himself, for he was both the sacrifice and the priest who made the sacrifice. We have a statement of this in one of our great communion hymns, translated from a sixth-century Latin text by the Scotsman Robert Campbell in 1849:

At the Lamb’s high feast we sing

Praise to our victorious King,

Who hath washed us in the tide

Flowing from his pierced side;

Praise we him whose love divine

Gives his sacred blood for wine,

Gives his body for the feast,

Christ the Victim, Christ the Priest.

Yes, there is an enormous difference between the sacrifice Jesus made for us and our own sacrifices of ourselves. Jesus’ sacrifice was an atoning sacrifice. He died in our place, bearing the punishment of God for our sin so that we might not have to bear it. His death was substitutionary. Our sacrifices are not at all like that. They are not an atonement for sin in any sense. Still, they are like Christ’s sacrifice in that we are the ones who make them and that the sacrifices we offer are ourselves.

Another distinction is that in the Old Testament the priests made different kinds of sacrifices. There were sacrifices for sin, of course; they looked forward to the death of Jesus Christ and explained it as a substitutionary atonement. These were fulfilled by Jesus’ death and are not repeatable. In this sense “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” as the author of Hebrews says (Heb. 10:10). But in addition to the sacrifices for sin there were also sacrifices of thanksgiving, offerings by worshipers who simply wanted to thank God for some great blessing or deliverance. It is this kind of a sacrifice that we offer when we offer God ourselves.

Sacrifice is an utterly unpleasant word in our day! No one wants to be a sacrifice. In fact, people do not want to sacrifice even a single little thing. We want to acquire things instead. Nevertheless, this is where the Christian life starts. It is God’s instruction and desire for us, and it is “good, pleasing and perfect” even if it does not seem to be.

Will you trust God that he knows what he is doing? Will you believe him in this as in other matters? If you will believe him, you will do exactly what Paul urges you to do in Romans 12. You will offer your body as a “living sacrifice” to God and thereby prove that his will for you is indeed perfect.

Living Sacrifice: Its Nature

Romans 12:1

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

Not long ago I reread parts of CharlesDickens’s wonderful historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities. The cities are Paris and London, of course, and the story is set in the years of the French Revolution when thousands of innocent people were being executed on the guillotine by followers of the revolution. As usual with Dickens’s stories, the plot is complex, but it reaches a never-to-be-forgotten climax when Sydney Carton, the disreputable character in the story, substitutes himself for his friend Charles Darney, who is being held for execution in the Bastille prison. Darney, who has been condemned to die, goes free, and Carton goes to the scaffold for him, saying, “It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to, than I have ever known.” The tale is so well written that it still moves me to tears every time I read it.

Few things move us to hushed awe so much as a person’s sacrifice of his or her life for someone else. It is the ultimate proof of true love.

We are to sacrifice ourselves for Jesus if we love him. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), and he did it for us. The sacrifice of Sydney Carton for his friend Darney is only a story, albeit a moving one, but Jesus actually died on the cross for our salvation. Now, because he loved us and gave himself for us, we who love him are likewise to give ourselves to him as “living sacrifices.”

But there is a tremendous difference. As I said in the last study, Jesus died in our place, bearing the punishment of God for our sin so that we would not have to bear it. Our sacrifices are not at all like that. They are not an atonement for sin in any sense. But they are like Christ’s in this at least, that we are the ones who make them and that the sacrifices we make are ourselves. It is what Paul is talking about in Romans 12 when he writes, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Rom. 12:1).

I introduced the matter of sacrifice in the last chapter. In this study I want to explore what exactly is meant by sacrifice, and how we are to do it.

Living Sacrifices

The first point is the obvious one: The sacrifice is to be a living sacrifice rather than a dead one. This was quite a novel idea in Paul’s day, when sacrifices were always killed. The animal was brought to the priest. The sins of the person bringing the sacrifice were confessed over the animal, thereby transferring them to it symbolically. Then the animal was put to death. It was a vivid way of reminding everyone that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23) and that the salvation of sinners is by substitution. In these sacrifices the animal died in place of the worshiper. It died so that he or she might not have to die. But now, with a burst of divinely inspired creativity, Paul reveals that the sacrifices we are to offer are not to be dead but rather living. We are to offer our lives to God so that, as a result, we might “no longer live for [ourselves] but for him who died for [us] and was raised again” (2 Cor. 5:15).

We are to be living sacrifices, yes. But with what life? Certainly not our old sinful lives in which, when we lived in them, we were dead already. Rather, we are to offer our new spiritual lives that have been given to us by Christ.

Robert Smith Candlish was a Scottish pastor who lived over a hundred years ago (1806–73) and who left us some marvelous studies of the Bible. In his study of Romans 12, he reflects on the nature of the life we are to offer God. “What life?” he asks. “Not merely animal life, the life that is common to all sentient and moving creatures; not merely, in addition to that, intelligent life, the life that characterizes all beings capable of thought and voluntary choice; but spiritual life: life in the highest sense; the very life which those on whose behalf the sacrifice of atonement is presented lost, when they fell into that state which makes a sacrifice of atonement necessary.”

What this means, among other things, is that we must be Christians if we are to give ourselves to God as he requires. Other people may give God their money or time or even take up a religious vocation, but only a Christian can give back to God that new spiritual life in Christ that he has first been given. Indeed, it is only because we have been made alive in Christ that we are able to do this or even want to.

Offering Our Bodies

The second thing we need to see about the nature of the sacrifice God requires is that it involves the giving to God of our bodies. Some of the earlier commentators stress that offering our bodies really means offering ourselves, all we are. Calvin wrote, “By bodies he means not only our skin and bones, but the totality of which we are composed.” But although it is true that we are to offer God all we are, most commentators today rightly refuse to pass over the word bodies quite this easily because they recognize how much the Bible stresses the importance of our bodies.

For example, Leon Morris says, “Paul surely expected Christians to offer to God not only their bodies but their whole selves.… But we should bear in mind that the body is very important in the Christian understanding of things. Our bodies may be ‘implements of righteousness’ (6:13) and ‘members of Christ’ (1 Cor. 6:15). The body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19); Paul can speak of being ‘holy both in body and in spirit’ (1 Cor. 7:34). He knows that there are possibilities of evil in the body but that in the believer ‘the body of sin’ has been brought to nothing (6:6).”

In a similar manner, Robert Haldane says, “It is of the body that the apostle here speaks, and it is not proper to extract out of his language more than it contains.… This shows the importance of serving God with the body as well as with the soul.”

Paul does not elaborate upon what he means by presenting our bodies to God as living sacrifices in Romans 12, but has already presented this idea in chapter 6. There he said, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (vv. 12–14). Paul is making the same point there, where he first begins to talk about sanctification, that he makes in 12:1—we are to serve God by offering him our bodies.

Sin can control us through our bodies, but it does not need to. So rather than offering our bodies as instruments of sin, we are to offer God our bodies as instruments for doing his will. This concerns specific body parts.

  1. Our minds. Although we often think of our minds as separate from our bodies, our minds actually are parts of our bodies and the victory we need to achieve begins here. I will not dwell on this here because I will be treating it more fully later when I talk about mind renewal. But I remind you that this is the point at which Paul himself begins in verse 2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Have you ever considered that what you do with your mind will determine a great deal of what you will become as a Christian? If you fill your mind only with the products of our secular culture, you will remain secular and sinful. If you fill your head with trashy novels, you will begin to live like the characters you read about. If you do nothing but watch television, you will begin to act like the scoundrels on television. On the other hand, if you feed your mind on the Bible and Christian books, train it by godly conversation, and discipline it to critique what you see and hear by applying biblical truths to the world’s ideas, you will grow in godliness and become increasingly useful to God.

When I wrote on this subject in my earlier study of Romans 6:12–14, I set out a simple goal in this area: “For every secular book you read, make it your goal also to read one good Christian book, a book that can stretch your mind spiritually.”

  1. Our eyes and ears. The mind is not the only part of our body by which we receive impressions and that must therefore be offered to God as an instrument of righteousness. We also receive impressions through our eyes and ears, and these must be surrendered to God too.

Sociologists tell us that by the age of twenty-one the average young person has been bombarded by three hundred thousand commercial messages, all arguing from the assumption that personal gratification is the dominant goal in life. Television and other modern means of communication put the acquisition of things before godliness; in fact, they never mention godliness at all. How are you going to grow in godliness if you are constantly watching television or reading printed ads or listening to secular radio?

I am not advocating an evangelical monasticism in which we retreat from the culture, though it is far better to retreat from it than perish in it. But somehow the secular input must be counterbalanced by the spiritual. As I wrote earlier, “Another simple goal might be for you to spend as many hours studying your Bible, praying, and going to church as watching television.”

  1. Our tongues. The tongue is also part of our body, and what we do with it is important either for good or evil. James, the Lord’s brother, wrote, “The tongue is … a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:5–6). If your tongue is not given to God as an instrument of righteousness in his hands, this will be true of you. You do not need to be a Hitler and plunge the world into armed conflict to do evil with your tongue. A little bit of gossip or slander will suffice.

What you need to do is use your tongue to praise and serve God. For one thing, you should learn how to recite Scripture with it. You probably know the popular songs. Can you not also use your tongue to speak God’s words? And how about worship? You should use your tongue to praise God by means of hymns and other Christian songs. Above all, you should use your tongue to witness to others about the person and work of Christ.

Here is another goal for you if you want to grow in godliness: Use your tongue as much to tell others about Jesus as for idle conversation.

  1. Our hands and feet. There are several important passages about our hands and feet. In 1 Thessalonians 4:11–12, Paul tells us to work with our hands so that we will be self-supporting and not dependent on anybody: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” In Ephesians 4:28 he tells us to work so that we will have something to give to others who are in need: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”

As far as our feet are concerned, in Romans 10 Paul writes of the need others have for the gospel, saying, “How can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ ” (Rom. 10:14–15).

What do you do with your hands? And where do your feet take you? Do you allow them to take you to where Christ is denied or blasphemed? To where sin is openly practiced? Are you spending most of your free time loitering in the hot singles clubs? You will not grow in godliness there. On the contrary, you will fall from righteous conduct. Let your feet carry you into the company of those who love and serve God. Or, if you go into the world, let it be to serve the world and witness to it in Christ’s name. Use your feet and hands for him.

Here is another goal taken from the earlier study: “For every special secular function you attend, determine to attend a Christian function also. And when you attend a secular function, do so as a witness by word and action for the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Holiness

The third word Paul uses to indicate the nature of the sacrifices we are to offer God is holy. Any sacrifice must be holy, without spot or blemish and consecrated entirely to God. Anything less is an insult to the great and holy God we serve. How much more must we be holy who have been purchased “not with perishable things such as silver or gold … but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18–19). Peter wrote, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:15–16). The author of Hebrews said, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

This is the very heart of what we are talking about when we speak of living sacrifices: Holiness is the end of the matter, the point to which the entire Epistle of Romans has been heading. Romans is about salvation. But as someone wise has noted, salvation does not mean that Jesus died to save us in our sins but to save us from them.

Handley C. G. Moule expressed this well: “As we actually approach the rules of holiness now before us, let us once more recollect what we have seen all along in the Epistle, that holiness is the aim and issue of the entire Gospel. It is indeed an ‘evidence of life,’ infinitely weighty in the enquiry whether a man knows God indeed and is on the way to his heaven. But it is much more; it is the expression of life; it is the form and action in which life is intended to come out.… We who believe are ‘chosen’ and ‘ordained’ to ‘bring forth fruit’ (John 15:16), fruit much and lasting.”

I don’t think any subject is more generally neglected among evangelicals in America in our day than holiness. Yet there was a time when holiness was a serious pursuit of anyone who called himself or herself a Christian, and how one lived and who one was inside was important.

England’s J. I. Packer has written a book called Rediscovering Holiness in which he calls attention to this fact: “The Puritans insisted that all life and relationships must become ‘holiness to the Lord.’ John Wesley told the world that God had raised up methodism ‘to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land.’ Phoebe Palmer, Handley Moule, Andrew Murray, Jessie Penn-Lewis, F. B. Meyer, Oswald Chambers, Horatius Bonar, Amy Carmichael, and L. B. Maxwell are only a few of the leading figures in the ‘holiness revival’ that touched all evangelical Christendom between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries.”

But today? Today holiness is largely forgotten as being important for Christians. We do not try to be holy, and we hardly know what holiness means. And we do not look for holiness in others. The great parish minister and revival preacher Robert Murray McCheyne once said, “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.” But pulpit committees hardly look for holiness in a new pastor today. They look for a winsome personality, communication skills, administrative ability, and other such things.

As for ourselves, we do not seek out books or tapes on holiness or attend seminars designed to draw us closer to God. We want seminars entitled “How to Be Happy,” “How to Raise Children,” “How to Have a Good Sex Life,” “How to Succeed in Business,” and so on.

Fortunately, this lack has begun to be noticed by some evangelical leaders who are disturbed by it and have begun to address the subject. I commend Packer’s book, as well as a book written several years ago by Jerry Bridges called The Pursuit of Holiness. There is also the older classic by the English Bishop John Charles Ryle by the same title.

Pleasing to God

The final word Paul uses to describe how we should present our bodies to God as living sacrifices is pleasing. If we do what Paul has urged us to do—offer our “bodies as living sacrifices, holy … to God”—then we will also find that what we have done is pleasing and acceptable to him.

That is an amazing thing to me, that God could find anything we might do to be pleasing. But it is so! I notice that the word pleasing occurs twice in this short paragraph. The first time, which is what we are looking at here, it indicates that our offering of ourselves to God pleases God. The second time, at the end of verse 2, it indicates that when we do this we will find God’s will for our lives to be pleasing as well as good and perfect. That God’s will for me should be pleasing, pleasing to me—that I understand. How could it be otherwise if God is all-wise and all-good? He must will what is good for me. But that my offering of myself to him should somehow also please him when I know myself to be sinful and ignorant and half-hearted even in my best efforts—that is astonishing.

But so it is! The Bible tells me that at my best I am to think of myself as an “unworthy” servant (Luke 17:10). But it also says that if I live for Jesus, offering back to him what he has first given to me, then one day I will hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! … Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21).

Living for Christ may be hard. It always will be in this sinful, God-defying world. I may not understand what good it does either for me or for other people. But that commendation, the praise of the Lord Jesus Christ, will be enough for me. It will make it worthwhile.

Living Sacrifice: Its Motive

Romans 12:1

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

What is it that motivates people to be “the best they can be,” as the Army recruitment ads say? There are a number of answers.

One way to motivate people is to challenge them. Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, tells of a mill manager whose workers were not producing. The owner was named Charles Schwab, and he asked the manager what was wrong. “I have no idea,” the manager said. “I’ve coaxed the men; I’ve pushed them; I’ve sworn and cussed; I’ve threatened them with damnation and being fired. Nothing works. They just won’t produce.”

“How many heats did your shift make today?” Schwab asked.

“Six.”

Without saying anything else, Schwab picked up a piece of chalk and wrote a big number “6” on the floor. Then he walked away.

When the night shift came in they saw the “6” and asked what it meant. “The big boss was here today,” someone said. “He asked how many heats the day shift made, and we told him six. He chalked it on the floor.”

The next morning Schwab walked through the mill again. The night shift had rubbed out the “6” and replaced it with an even bigger “7.” When the day shift reported the next day they saw the “7.” So the night shift thought they were better than the day shift, did they? They’d show them. They pitched in furiously, and before they had left that evening they had rubbed out the “7” and replaced it with a “10.” Schwab had increased production 66 percent in just twenty-four hours simply by throwing down a challenge.

Napoleon said that men are moved by trinkets. He was referring to medals, and he meant that soldiers would risk even death for recognition.

Winston Churchill, the great British statesman and prime minister during the hard days of the Second World War, motivated the British people by his vision of victory and by brilliant speeches. We can remember some of his words today: “blood, toil, tears and sweat,” “victory—victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; victory however long and hard the road may be,” “their finest hour.”

Moved by Mercy

What is it that motivates Christians to live a Christian life? Or to use Paul’s language in Romans 12:1, what is it that motivates them “to offer [their] bodies as living sacrifices … to God”?

If you and I were as rational as we think we are and sometimes claim to be, we would not need any encouragement to offer our bodies to God as living sacrifices because it would be the most reasonable thing in the world for us to do it. God is our Creator. He has redeemed us from sin by the death of Jesus Christ. He has made us alive in Christ. He loves us and cares for us. It is reasonable to love God and serve him in return. But we are not as rational as that and do need urging, which is why Paul writes as he does in Romans 12. In verse 1 Paul urges us to offer our bodies to God as living sacrifices, and the motivation he provides is God’s mercy: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Romans 12:1 is an amazing verse. It is one of those portions of the Bible that is literally packed with meaning, which is why I have been trying to unpack it carefully in these opening studies.

I began by studying the word therefore, which links the urging of verses 1 and 2 to everything that Paul has already written about in the letter. Next we looked at the idea of sacrifice, finding that in genuine Christianity we live by dying to self, as strange as that may seem. Third, we explored the nature of these sacrifices, seeing that: (1) they are to be living, (2) they involve giving the specific individual parts of our bodies to God for his service, (3) they must be holy, and (4) if they are these things, they will be acceptable to God.

But why should we present our bodies as living sacrifices? The answer is simple: “In view of [or because of] God’s mercy.” In the Greek text the word mercy is plural rather than singular, so the reason for giving ourselves to God is literally because of God’s manifold mercies—that is, because he has been good to us in many ways.

This is entirely different from the way the world looks at things. Assuming that people in today’s world should even get concerned about living righteously—and it is doubtful that very many could—they would probably say, “The reason to live a moral life is because you are going to get in trouble if you don’t.” Or to give secular thinking the greatest possible credit, perhaps they might say, “Because it is good for you.”

That is not what we have here.

In Rediscovering Holiness, J. I. Packer says,

The secular world never understands Christian motivation. Faced with the question of what makes Christians tick, unbelievers maintain that Christianity is practiced only out of self-serving purposes. They see Christians as fearing the consequences of not being Christians (religion as fire insurance), or feeling the need of help and support to achieve their goals (religion as a crutch), or wishing to sustain a social identity (religion as a badge of respectability). No doubt all these motivations can be found among the membership of churches: it would be futile to dispute that. But just as a horse brought into a house is not thereby made human, so a self-seeking motivation brought into the church is not thereby made Christian, nor will holiness ever be the right name for religious routines thus motivated. From the plan of salvation I learn that the true driving force in authentic Christian living is, and ever must be, not the hope of gain, but the heart of gratitude.

That is exactly what Paul is teaching. As John Calvin wrote, “Paul’s entreaty teaches us that men will never worship God with a sincere heart, or be roused to fear and obey him with sufficient zeal, until they properly understand how much they are indebted to his mercy.”

What is Mercy?

This is not the first time we have had to think about mercy in studying Romans. Mercy is one of three words often found together: goodness, grace and mercy. Goodness is the most general term, involving all that emanates from God: his decrees, his creation, his laws, his providences. It extends to the elect and to the nonelect, though not in the same way. God is good, and everything he does is good. Grace denotes favor, particularly toward the undeserving. There is common grace, the kind of favor God shows to all persons in that he sends rain on the just and unjust alike. There is also special, or saving, grace, which is what he shows to those he is saving from their sins. Mercy is an aspect of grace, but the unique quality of mercy is that it is given to the pitiful.

Arthur W. Pink says, “Mercy … denotes the ready inclination of God to relieve the misery of fallen creatures. Thus ‘mercy’ presupposes sin.”

Let me show how this works by three examples.

In the Beginning

The first is Adam. Try to put yourself in Adam’s position at the very beginning of human history and imagine how he must have felt when God came to him in the garden after he and Eve had sinned by eating from the forbidden tree. God had warned Adam about eating, saying, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:16–17). The Hebrew text actually says, “On the day you eat of it you will die.” But Adam and Eve had eaten of it, and now God had come to them to demand an accounting and pronounce judgment.

“Where are you?” God called.

Adam and his wife had hidden among the trees when they heard God coming; they were terrified. God had said that they would die on the day they ate of the forbidden tree. Eve must have expected to die. Adam must have expected to die. “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid,” Adam said.

“Who told you that you were naked?” God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

Adam confessed that he had eaten, though he blamed the woman for getting him to do it.

God addressed the woman. “What is this you have done?”

Eve blamed the serpent (Gen. 3:9–13).

At last God began his judgments, beginning with the serpent:

Cursed are you above all the livestock

and all the wild animals!

You will crawl on your belly

and you will eat dust

all the days of your life.

And I will put enmity

between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and hers;

he will crush your head,

and you will strike his heel.

Genesis 3:14–15

God spoke to Eve next, foretelling pain in childbirth and harsh struggle within the marriage. We call it the battle of the sexes.

Finally, God addressed Adam:

Cursed is the ground because of you;

through painful toil you will eat of it

all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you,

and you will eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your brow

you will eat your food

until you return to the ground,

since from it you were taken;

for dust you are

and to dust you will return.

Genesis 3:17–19

Imagine yourself in Adam’s place, living through what I have described. God had told Adam and Eve that they would die, but they had not died. There had been judgments, of course, consequences. Sin always has consequences. But they had not been struck down; and, in fact, God had even announced the coming of a Redeemer who one day would crush Satan’s head and undo his work. Even more, God had illustrated the nature of Christ’s atonement by killing animals, the innocent dying for the guilty, and then by clothing Adam and Eve with the animals’ skins. It was a picture of imputed righteousness.

Adam must have been overwhelmed by an awareness of God’s mercy. Adam deserved to die, but instead of killing him, God spared him and promised a Savior instead.

No wonder Adam then named his wife “Eve,” meaning life-giver or mother. It was his way of expressing faith in God’s promise, for God had said that it was from the seed of the woman that the Redeemer would come. The memory of God’s mercy must have kept Adam looking to God in faith and living for God by faith through his long life from that time forward, for Adam lived to be eight hundred years old and was the father of the line of godly patriarchs that extended from him through his third son Seth to Noah.

The Worst of Sinners

My second example is Paul. In his earlier days Paul was called Saul, and he was a fierce opponent of Christianity. He was a Pharisee, the strictest sect of the Jews, and he was zealous for the traditions of his fathers. This led him to participate in the martyrdom of Stephen, and he followed that by arresting and otherwise persecuting many of the early Christians. Having done what he could in Jerusalem, Paul obtained letters to the leaders of the synagogues in Damascus and went there to arrest any Christians he could find and carry them off to Jerusalem for trial and possible execution.

On the way Jesus stopped him. There was a bright light from heaven, and when Saul fell to the ground, blinded by the light, he heard a voice speaking to him. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the voice replied.

At this point Paul must have had feelings similar to those of Adam when God had appeared to him in the garden of Eden. True, God had not told Paul that he would die if he persecuted Christians. He was persecuting them in ignorance, supposing that he was serving God. But he had been terribly mistaken. He had done great harm, and he had even participated in the killing of Stephen. In that first moment of Paul’s dawning apprehension, when he recognized that it was Jesus of Nazareth who was speaking to him, he must have thought that Jesus had appeared to him to judge him. He certainly deserved it. He must have expected to have been struck down and to die.

Instead Jesus sent him to Damascus, where he was to be told what he should do. When the message came to him by a disciple named Ananias, it was that he was to be God’s “chosen instrument to carry [God’s] name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel” (Acts 9:1–15).

Mercy? I should say it was. Paul never forgot it.

That is why, years later, he could write to his young friend and co-worker Timothy, saying, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:15–16). It was because he knew himself to be a sinner saved only by the mercy and grace of God that Paul joyfully gave himself to God as a living sacrifice and worked tirelessly to please him.

A Slave of Slaves

My third example is John Newton. Newton ran away to sea as a young boy and eventually went to Africa to participate in the slave trade. His reason for going, as he later wrote in his autobiography, was that he might “sin his fill.” Sin he did! But the path of sin is downhill, and Newton’s path descended so low that he was eventually reduced to the position of a slave in his master’s African compound. This man dealt in slaves, and when he went off on slaving expeditions Newton fell into the hands of the slave trader’s African wife, who hated white men and vented her venom on Newton. Newton was forced to eat his food off the dusty floor like a dog, and at one point he was actually placed in chains. Sick and emaciated, he nearly died.

Newton escaped from this form of his slavery eventually. But he was still chained to sin and again went to sea transporting slaves from the west coast of Africa to the New World. It was on his return from one of these slave voyages that Newton was wondrously converted.

The ship was overtaken by a fierce storm in the north Atlantic and was nearly sinking. The rigging was destroyed; water was pouring in. The hands tried to seal the many leaks and brace the siding. Newton was sent down into the hold to pump water. He pumped for days, certain that the ship would sink and that he would be taken under with it and be drowned. As he pumped water in the hold of that ship, God brought to Newton’s mind verses he had learned from his mother as a child, and they led to his conversion. When the ship survived the storm and the sailors were again in England, Newton left the slave trade, studied for the Christian ministry, and finally became a great preacher. He even preached before the queen.

What was Newton’s motivation? It was a profound awareness of the grace and mercy of God toward him, a wretched sinner. Newton wrote these words:

Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found—

Was blind, but now I see.

Newton never forgot God’s mercy to him. Once a friend was complaining about someone who was resistant to the gospel and living a life of great sin. “Sometimes I almost despair of that man,” the friend remarked.

“I never did despair of any man since God saved me,” said Newton.

In his most advanced years Newton’s mind began to fail and he had to stop preaching. But when friends came to visit him he frequently remarked, “I am an old man. My mind is almost gone. But I can remember two things: I am a great sinner, and Jesus is a great Savior.” Certainly the mercy of God moved Newton to offer his body as a living sacrifice to God and to seek to please him.

Love So Amazing

Now I come to you. Up to this point I have been asking you to put yourself in the place of Adam, Paul, and John Newton, trying to feel what they must have felt as an awareness of the greatness of the mercy of God swept over them. But if you are a Christian, you should be feeling the same things yourself even without reference to Adam or Paul or other characters.

Ephesians 2 describes your experience. It says that before God revealed his mercy to you, you were “dead in your transgressions and sins” (v. 1). You “followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (v. 2) and were “by nature [an object of God’s] wrath” (v. 3). “You were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and [a foreigner] to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (v. 12). That was your condition.

But now listen to what God did.

“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (vv. 4–7).

That is the nature of the goodness, love, grace, and mercy of our great God. If you are a Christian, shouldn’t it motivate you to the most complete offer of your body to him as a living sacrifice and to the highest possible level of obedience and service? How can it do otherwise? In my opinion, you can never understand and accurately appreciate what God has done in showing you mercy in Christ without replying wholeheartedly, as did Isaac Watts in his great hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” (1709):

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Service that Makes Sense

Romans 12:1

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

The Greek words of the last phrase of Romans 12:1 are ambiguous and have been translated different ways. For example, there are two different ways the words spiritual act of worship in Romans 12:1 may be understood. The noun translated worship is latreia, which can mean either service or worship. The plural of latreia can even mean rites or duties. The adjective in this important combination of words is logikos, however, which can mean either spiritual or rational, and when it is coupled to the noun two rather different meanings are possible.

One meaning is preserved in the King James Version: “your reasonable service.” The newer translation is “your spiritual worship,” which appears in the New International Version.

What is it? Is it “reasonable service” or “spiritual act of worship”? One answer is that the Greek words may actually embrace both ideas at the same time, spiritual worship being thought of also as rational service. But if I am forced to make a choice, I find myself siding with John Murray, who notes that “reasonable or rational is a more literal rendering.” Logikos has given us the English word logical, which means reasonable or according to reason, and this should also be the preferred meaning, if for no other reason than because in the next verse Paul talks about Christians being transformed by “the renewing of [their] mind[s].”

So Paul really is talking about something reasonable, saying that the living sacrifice that he is urging upon us here is logical.

Even more, the service itself is to be performed reasonably, or with the mind. “The service here in view is worshipful service and the apostle characterizes it as ‘rational’ because it is worship that derives its character as acceptable to God from the fact that it enlists our mind, our reason, our intellect. It is rational in contrast with what is mechanical or automatic.… The lesson to be derived from the term ‘rational’ is that we are not ‘spiritual’ in the biblical sense except as the use of our bodies is characterized by conscious, intelligent, consecrated devotion to the service of God.”

To understand these words well we must comprehend two things. First, we must understand the kind of service that is required. Second, we need to see why such demanding service is so reasonable.

Giving God Ourselves

As far as the first of these two matters is concerned, we have already spent a good bit of time exploring what this kind of service is about. It concerns what Paul calls “sacrifice.” When we were looking at it in detail earlier we saw that it involves three things. First, it must be a living sacrifice. That is, our lives are to be given to God in active, continuing service. Second, it involves the offering of our bodies. In other words, we must give God the use of our minds, eyes, ears, tongues, hands, feet, and other body parts. Third, we must be holy. Moreover, we saw that if we do this, then the sacrifices we make to God will be pleasing to him.

Our problem, of course, is that we do not want to give God ourselves. We will give him things. It is relatively easy to give God money, though even here we are frequently far less than generous. We will even give God a certain amount of our time. We will volunteer for charitable work. But we will not give ourselves. Yet without ourselves these other “gifts” mean nothing to the Almighty.

You will begin to understand the Christian life only when you understand that God does not want your money or your time without yourself. You are the one for whom Jesus died. You are the one he loves. So when the Bible speaks of reasonable service, as it does here, it means that you are the one God wants. It is sad if you try to substitute things for that, the greatest gift.

A wonderful illustration of how we do sometimes substitute things for ourselves is the story of Jacob’s return to his own country as related in Genesis 32. He had cheated his brother Esau out of his father Isaac’s blessing about twenty years before, and he had been forced to run away because his brother was threatening to kill him. Twenty years is a long time. Over those two decades Jacob had gradually forgotten his brother’s threats. But when it came time to go home, which is what this chapter describes, Jacob began to remember the past and grew increasingly fearful of what might happen.

Moving along toward Canaan with Laban behind him and his own country in front of him, Jacob had time to think. He remembered his own disreputable conduct. He recollected Esau’s murderous threats. Every step became more difficult. Finally he came to the brook Jabbok that marked the border of his brother’s territory, looked across to where Esau lived, and was terrified. If he could have gone back, he would have. But there was no way to go except forward.

What was he to do?

The first thing he did was send some servants ahead to see if they could find Esau and perhaps get a feeling for what he was planning to do. They had not gone very far when they ran into Esau, who was actually coming to meet Jacob. Unfortunately, he had four hundred men with him. This was a huge army from Jacob’s point of view, and he could only assume the worst—that Esau was coming to kill him. He thought quickly, then divided his family, servants, and flocks into two groups, reasoning that if Esau attacked one group, the other might escape.

Ah, but what if Jacob was in the group Esau attacked?

On second thought, that didn’t seem to be a very good plan, so he decided to appease his brother with gifts. First he sent him a present of two hundred female goats. He sent a servant along to drive the herd, and he gave the servant these instructions: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us’ ” (Gen. 32:17–18).

After this he sent another group of twenty male goats, and he gave the servant in charge of this flock the same instructions, to say that they belonged to Jacob and were being sent as a gift to Esau, with Jacob to come after them.

Just in case Esau was not satisfied with the goats, Jacob decided to send two hundred ewes, then twenty rams. After this he sent over the rest of his livestock: “thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys” (v. 15). Each group had its servants in charge, and to each servant he gave the same message. It must have been an amusing picture—all Jacob’s possessions stretched out across the desert going toward Esau.

But there was more. After he had sent the animals Jacob sent his least favored wife Leah with her children ahead of him across the Jabbok, followed by his favored wife Rachel with her children. Then there was the Jabbok. And then there at last, all alone and trembling, was Jacob.

I suppose that if he had known the chorus, he might have been singing “I surrender all.” All the goats, that is. All the sheep. All the camels. All the cows. All the bulls. All the donkeys. He had given up everything, but he had still not given himself. That is what some of us do. We tell God that we will give him some time. We volunteer to help with something around the church. We give him our money. We do not give ourselves.

That night the angel came and wrestled with Jacob to bring him to the point of personal submission, after which this scheming, stiff-necked man was never the same again. When is the angel going to come and wrestle with you? Does he need to?

Why is It Reasonable?

Let’s not wait for the angel. Let’s deal with this matter of sacrificial service to God now. Let’s examine why it is reasonable to serve God sacrificially.

  1. It is reasonable because of what God has already done for us. We touched on this point in the first of our studies of Romans 12, because it is implied in the word with which Paul begins this final major section of the letter: therefore. Therefore refers back to everything Paul said earlier. He discussed our need as sinners. We are under the wrath of God, on a destructive downhill path and unable to help ourselves. Paul has shown that we are not even inclined to help ourselves. Instead of drawing close to God, who is our only hope, we run away from him, suppressing even the truths about God known from the revelation of himself in nature.

Yet God has not let it go at that. God intervened to save us by the work of Jesus Christ, who died for us, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to understand what Jesus has accomplished, repent of our sin, and trust him for our salvation. Then he has also joined us to Jesus Christ to make us different people from what we were before. Paul expounded on that in the letter’s first eleven chapters. So now, when he gets to chapter 12, he says, “Look what God has done. Is it not reasonable to give yourself utterly and sacrificially to a God who has given himself utterly and sacrificially for you?”

Let me make that personal. Are you a believer in Jesus Christ? Are you trusting him for your salvation? Has the Holy Spirit made you alive in Jesus Christ? If he has, what can be more reasonable than to give yourself to him? What is more logical than to serve God wholeheartedly in this way?

  1. It is reasonable because of what God is continuing to do. The salvation of a Christian is not just a past thing. It is also a present experience, because God is continuing to work in those whom he has brought to faith in Jesus Christ. It is difficult to make changes in our lives, break destructive habits, form new ways of thinking, and please God. But this is exactly what God is doing in us. It is what this text is about. God does not start a thing and abandon it. When God starts something he always brings it to completion. He is doing this with you. Therefore, it is absurd to oppose his purposes. It is futile. The only reasonable thing is to join God and get on with what he is enabling you to do.
  2. It is reasonable because such service is God’s will for us, and his is a good, pleasing and perfect will. This point anticipates Romans 12:2, which says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Christians often get greatly hung up on the idea of discovering what God’s specific will is for their lives. There has been great debate on this, some of which I reviewed earlier in my study of Romans 8. In my judgment, there clearly are specific plans for our lives that God had determined in advance, because he has predetermined all things. The difficulty is that he has not revealed these to us. They are part of the hidden counsels of God, and they are not known by us simply because they are hidden. But although these specific details are not made known, general but very important things are, and the most important of these is that God wants us to be like Jesus Christ.

This is what Romans 8:28–29 says. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” This is what Romans 12:2 is getting at as well.

Sometimes we also get hung up on the idea that God’s will must be something hard, difficult, or irrational. Paul corrects that error by giving us three adjectives to describe the nature of God’s will.

It is good, he says. God is the master of the understatement. So if God says his will is good, he means good with a capital G. He means that his will for us is the best thing that could possibly be.

God’s will is also acceptable, says Paul. This means acceptable to us, since the fact that God’s will is acceptable to God goes without saying. Do not say that the will of God is hard. Or difficult. Or irrational. If you are thinking along those lines, it is because you have not yet learned to surrender to it. Those who do surrender to God’s will, offering their whole selves as sacrifices to him, find that the will of God is the most acceptable thing there can be.

Finally, Paul argues that the will of God is perfect. No one can say more than that. Our ways are not perfect. They can always be improved upon and often must be corrected. God’s ways are perfect. They can never be made better. So isn’t it the most reasonable thing in the world to serve God and to do so without reservation, with all your heart?

  1. It is reasonable because God is worthy of our very best efforts. We read in Revelation 4:11:

You are worthy, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,

and by your will they were created

and have their being.

And again, of Jesus in Revelation 5:9–10:

You are worthy to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

because you were slain,

and with your blood you purchased men for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation.

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,

and they will reign on the earth.

And yet again in Revelation 5:12:

Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and praise!

That is the testimony of the elders, the four living creatures, the angels, and the entire company of the redeemed. It means that God is worthy of all honor, including the very best we have to offer.

Do you believe that?

I think that is the problem. If we did believe it, we would judge it reasonable to live for Jesus now and we would do it. Instead, in many cases we only say, “Jesus is worthy of all honor,” and then go out and fail to live for him. Our actions refute our profession. On the other hand, if you do live for him, giving God all you can ever hope to be, then you are testifying that God truly is a great God and that he is worthy of the best you or anyone else can offer.

  1. It is reasonable because only spiritual things will last. My last point is that it is reasonable to give everything you have for God because in the final analysis only that which is spiritual will last. Everything else—everything we see and touch and handle—will pass away. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away” (Matt. 24:35). If that is true of the heavens and the earth, it is certainly true of the small perishable things you and I give so much of our lives for.

Although “the world and its desires pass away,” we are also told that the one who “does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). And so do his works! The Bible says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. … They will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them” (Rev. 14:13). Learning to think this way is part of what it means to think spiritually. It is a start in developing a truly Christian mind.

I close with two illustrations. Jim Elliot wrote as a young missionary, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” He gave his life to God in what he judged to be the most reasonable service, and he gained a spiritual inheritance forever.

Another missionary, William Borden, came from a wealthy privileged family, was a graduate of Yale University, and had the promise of a wonderful and lucrative career before him. But he felt a call to serve God as a missionary in China and left for the field even though his family and friends thought him a fool for going. After a short time away and even before he reached China, Borden contracted a fatal disease and died. He had given up everything to follow Jesus. He died possessing nothing in this world. But Borden of Yale did not regret it. We know this because he left a note as he lay dying that said, “No reserve, no retreat, and no regrets.” Like so many others, he found the service of Christ to be eminently reasonable, and he gained a lasting reward.[3]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans. Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The New Humanity (Vol. 4, pp. 1491–1521). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

MAY 9 – PLACE THE GREATEST VALUE ON GODLINESS

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?

ROMANS 8:32

Were the church a pure and Spirit-filled body, wholly led and directed by spiritual considerations, certainly the purest and the saintliest men and women would be the ones most appreciated and most honored, but the opposite is true!

Godliness is no longer valued, except for the very old or the very dead!

The saintly souls are forgotten in the whirl of religious activity. The noisy, the self-assertive, the entertaining are sought after and rewarded in every way, with gifts, crowds, offerings and publicity. The Christlike, the self-forgetting, the otherworldly are jostled aside to make room for the latest converted playboy who is usually not too well converted and still very much a playboy.

The whole shortsighted philosophy that ignores eternal qualities and majors in trivialities is a form of unbelief. These Christians who embody such a philosophy are clamoring after present reward; they are too impatient to wait for the Lord’s time! The true saint sees farther than this; he cares little for passing values; he looks forward eagerly to the day when eternal things shall come into their own, and godliness will be found to be all that matters.

The wise Christian will be content to wait for that day, and in the meantime, he will serve his generation in the will of God![1]


Enduring Love

Romans 8:32

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

John Calvin always expressed himself beautifully and frequently with great power. He has done both in his comments on Romans 8:31:

“ ‘If God is for us, who is against us?’

“This is the chief and therefore the only support to sustain us in every temptation. If God is not propitious to us, no sure confidence can be conceived, even though everything should smile upon us. On the other hand, however, his favor alone is a sufficiently great consolation for every sorrow, and a sufficiently strong protection against all the storms of misfortune.”

The great Reformer then cites a number of Bible texts in which believers dare to despise every earthly danger because of trusting God alone.

Psalm 23:4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

Psalm 56:11. “In God I will trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Psalm 3:6. “I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.” Calvin then concludes, “There is no power under heaven or above it which can resist the arm of God.”

That is all very true, and it is what the apostle Paul wants us to conclude as the result of Romans 8:31, the first verse of the great defiant paragraph that concludes the eighth chapter. But a new question arises in our minds: Granted that nothing can be against us if God is for us, but is God really for us? How can we know that the great God of the universe is actually on our side?

Perhaps he is too busy to care about us.

Maybe we are too insignificant for him to give us even a second thought.

What if our sins have caused him to regret that he brought us into being in the first place?

Paul has no doubts along any of these lines, of course. But lest we do, he follows his first question with a second one, which is meant to blow these fearful musings to the winds: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (v. 32). The verse means: We can know that God is for us and will be for us always because he has already given us his Son.

Facts Not Emotions

I want to examine Paul’s statement in some detail because, like each of these great questions and statements, it is vitally important. But before I do, it is also important to notice what Paul does not say. If Paul were one of our contemporary Bible teachers or modern theologians, he might answer our doubts by saying, “You do not need to worry about the future, because God loves you. God is love.”

That would be true, of course. In fact, that is the ultimate affirmation of this paragraph: Nothing in heaven or earth or “in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39). But Paul was a pastor, and he knew well that we can all easily doubt such statements, particularly when life becomes difficult. “All right,” we may say, “I grant that God is love. But does he love me? How can I believe he loves me when I have lost my job, when my husband [or wife] has left me for someone else, when I have been diagnosed with an incurable disease? In fact, even when things go well, there are times when I just do not feel that God loves me or even that he cares about me at all.”

Paul knew that mere assurances that God loves us are not effective. So, instead of dealing with our doubts on the emotional level—which is what “God loves you” does—he turns from emotional experience to sure facts. According to this verse, we can know that God is for us, not because we somehow sense that it is his nature to be loving, but because he has given us his Son to die for us. That is, we can know God’s nature because of what he has already done in human history.

Actually, that is what Paul also does in verse 39, which I said was the ultimate affirmation of this paragraph. He says that nothing in heaven or earth or “in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” But notice that even there, where he is speaking explicitly of God’s love, it is nevertheless the love of God that is “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is a way of saying that it is only in Christ and through the work of Christ that we can know and be assured of God’s love.

Someone has noted rightly that there is hardly a verse in the Bible that speaks of God’s love that does not also, either explicitly or by inference, speak of the cross of Christ or the atonement.

What Hath God Wrought?

The cross of Christ is so important to Paul that he will present various aspects of it in this and the next two verses. Yet Paul’s purpose here is not to develop a theory of the atonement; he has done that already in Romans 3. His immediate purpose is to remind us of the factual elements of the atonement so that we will know that God is truly on our side.

What facts does he tell us in this verse?

  1. That this is God’s action; God has done it. This is the kind of point that is easy to pass over and not even think about. But it is actually extremely important, and a failure to see it leads to errors. I will present two of them.

The first error is made by people who think of the atonement as something accomplished by a loving Jesus to change the mind of God, who is imagined to be angry. To this way of thinking, God is ready to condemn us, but Jesus enters the picture to plead for us. “I love these people,” he says. “Look, I am dying for them, in their place. Spare them for my sake.” So God, who initially is reluctant or hostile, eventually agrees. “All right,” he says. “I’ll do it since you seem to care so much.”

That is a travesty of what happened, of course. For whenever we read the Bible we find from beginning to end that the salvation of sinners by the death of Jesus is God’s idea, that he, to use theological language, is the author or source of our salvation. Think of Isaiah 53:4:

Surely he took up our infirmities

and carried our sorrows,

yet we considered him stricken by God,

smitten by him, and afflicted.

The point of the verse, as emphasized by the added italics, is that God was responsible for Jesus’s death. Isaiah makes the same point two verses further on, in verse 6.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:6 is one of the clearest statements of substitutionary atonement in the Bible, but it is no less a statement of the fact that God the Father conceived and carried out this plan. God was not made to love us by Christ’s death. He loved us from the beginning, and it is because he loved us that Jesus died. We can easily see how important this truth is to the argument for eternal security that Paul is making.

The second error people make in thinking of Christ’s death is that they see it as a result of human actions only. “What a terrible day that was, when evil, jealous men killed the best man who ever lived,” they might say.

It is true that evil men conspired to do away with Jesus. But the Bible never stops there when it speaks of the atonement. Do you remember how Peter put it when he addressed the Jews of Jerusalem on Pentecost, a few bare weeks after the crucifixion? He asserted their guilt. There was no escaping that. But he said this, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23, emphasis added). They were guilty, but the important thing is that Jesus’ death had been planned and was accomplished by God.

So the atonement shows that God loved us from the beginning, indeed, has always loved us. It shows that he is truly on our side.

  1. That the atonement involved God’s only Son. The second point of fact Paul makes in verse 32 is that the atonement involved God’s one and only Son. This teaches a number of things, one of them being Jesus’ full deity. Indeed, this is basic to what comes next. For it is his being divine that gives the death of Jesus its full force and meaning. If Jesus were only another human being, his death would have no more value or significance than that of any other human being, a great example perhaps, but certainly not an atonement. It is because Jesus is the unique Son of God and therefore both holy and of infinite value that his death can be a true atonement for our sin.

John the Baptist introduced Jesus by saying, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). This is important, too, because it adds something to the first statement. Showing that God is the author of our salvation points out that God has always been disposed to love us; indeed, he has loved us from eternity. But if that is all that can be said, a question would immediately arise: But how much does he love us? We, too, often love, though not well. Our love weakens. Could it be that God is like us in love, that he loves but not a whole lot—not enough to actually see us through all life’s difficulties?

The answer, of course, is that God loves with an intensity and affection infinitely surpassing ours. And we know this because he has given us his own Son, his one and only Son. Jesus is the greatest gift God had to give. There is nothing in all the universe more precious to God than his Son and nothing greater than God’s Son. So when God gave Jesus, he proved the greatness of his love by the most precious gift of all.

The guilty pair, bowed down with care,

God gave his Son to win.

His erring child he reconciled

and rescued from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure,

how measureless and strong.

It shall forevermore endure,

the saints’ and angels’ song.

  1. M. Lehman, 1917
  2. That God spared him not. The third assertion in this verse carries us a step beyond even what we have seen so far, for it tells us that God “did not spare” Jesus. He could have spared him, but he did not.

Almost everyone who writes on this verse carefully recognizes that it contains a strong reference to the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. This is because the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament uses the Greek word for “spared” that is found in Romans 8:32 to translate one of God’s words to Abraham following the patriarch’s amazing obedience to God’s command to sacrifice his son. The New International Version translates it as “withheld” in the Genesis text, but it is the same word. God said, “… because you have done this and have not withheld [spared] your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore …” (Gen. 22:16–17).

The irony of the story, however, is that although Abraham was obedient to God up to the point of actually raising the knife to kill his son—that is, he did not spare him—God intervened to accomplish just that. God did spare Isaac, though Abraham was willing not to do so.

But the story also illustrates, and undoubtedly was also used by God to teach Abraham, that one day God literally would not spare his own Son but would allow him to die in order that Isaac and Abraham and all other believers down through the long ages of human history might be spared. Jesus is the only one who has ever deserved to be spared. Certainly none of us do. But by refusing to spare his Son, God spared us so that we might be saved and come to spend an eternity in glory with him. Somehow God taught that to Abraham on Mount Moriah, which is why Abraham named the place Jehovah Jireh, “The Lord Will Provide” (Gen. 22:14). God provided for us by giving up Jesus.

  1. That God delivered up Jesus for us. This brings us to the fourth of the statements Paul has tucked into this single verse about the actions of God the Father in saving us through Jesus’ death on Calvary. The previous statement was negative: “He did not spare his own Son.” This statement is positive: “but gave him up for us all.” It is a way of making the point more emphatic.

What does the statement mean when it says that God “gave him up” for us all? It means that God delivered him to death, of course. Jesus died, whereas Isaac did not have to die on Mount Moriah. But it is not just physical death that is meant here. This death was a spiritual death, involving a temporary separation from the Father when Jesus was made sin for us and actually bore the wrath of God against sin in our place. Do you remember the agony of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane? Jesus prayed that “this cup” might be taken from him and in his grief sweat, as it were, great drops of blood (Luke 22:39–44). Later on the cross he prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). This was not a man shrinking from mere physical death. If it were, Socrates would be a better model for us than Jesus. Instead, it was the horror of the holy, eternal Son of God as he faced the experience of being made sin for us and of bearing the wrath of separation from the love of God in our place. He was delivered up so that we might be spared. He bore the wrath of God so that we might never have to bear it.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:

Such, then, is the measure of God’s love, and it is the only adequate measure of a love which is “beyond measure.” How pathetic and hopeless is the position of people who think that they safeguard the love of God by denying the substitutionary theory of the atonement, who say that our Lord did not cry out in an agony, and who imagine that the measure of the love of God is that God says, “Though you have killed my Son, I still love you, and am still ready to forgive you”! They believe that they safeguard and magnify the love of God by denying the truth concerning the wrath of God, and that God must and does punish sin. … What they actually do is detract from the love of God. The love of God is only truly seen when we realize that “He spared not his own Son” . …

It is in such an action that you see the love of God. He loved such as we are, and to such an extent, that for us he punished his only Son, did not spare him anything, “delivered him up for us all,” and poured upon him the final dregs of his wrath against sin and evil, and the guilt involved in it all.

From the Greater to the Lesser

At this point it is easy to see how Paul’s argument wraps up. For, having reminded us of the greater truth, indeed the greatest truth of all, the apostle insists that the lesser will certainly follow from it. It is like saying, “If a rich benefactor has given you a million dollars, he will certainly not withhold a quarter if you need it for a parking meter.”

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” What are these “all things” Paul mentions? Well, all things, of course! Still, we have to understand this in the context of the terms Paul has been using. It does not mean all material things, as if Paul were promising that we would be rich. Or even good health necessarily. It is rather along the line of verse 28, which says that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It means that God will overrule everything for our benefit, so that even evil will somehow be worked into God’s great purpose, which is to make us like Jesus.

Whatever your circumstances, whatever trials, whatever pains, whatever persecutions, whatever hardships—God will use all of these things to make you like Jesus. Beyond that, he will provide all true necessities for your growth in holiness and perseverance in faith until the very end.

Love that Will Not Let Go

I want to end with a great hymn written by a Scottish minister of the last century whose name was George Matheson. He lived from 1842 to 1906. Matheson was blind, having lost his sight in his early youth, and his blindness gives great power and pathos to the words of the hymn, which clearly refer to it. But the occasion for the hymn was not the blindness but, in his own words, some “extreme mental distress,” which had brought him great “pain.” The story that grew up around this hymn, that his fiancée left Matheson when he lost his sight, seems to be unfounded. Nevertheless, something happened, something so painful that he never related it to anyone.

Matheson wrote this hymn on the evening of June 6, 1882, when he was alone in the manse in Inellen, Scotland, his family having all gone to Glasgow for his sister’s wedding.

O Love that wilt not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in thee;

I give thee back the life I owe,

That in thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be.

O Light that followest all my way,

I yield my flickering torch to thee;

My heart restores its borrowed ray,

That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day

May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,

I cannot close my heart to thee;

I trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain

That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,

I dare not ask to fly from thee;

I lay in dust life’s glory dead,

And from the ground there blossoms read

Life that shall endless be.

No one can read those lines without knowing that George Matheson knew the love of God in Christ Jesus and was assured that, whatever his circumstances might be, “he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” would surely “along with him, graciously give us all things.”

Christian, reason it out. Do not be double-minded in your spiritual understanding. Know that God is working out all things for your good and that he will surely keep on doing so until the end.[2]


  1. He who did not spare even his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

“He … did not spare even his own Son, but gave him up.” The depth of feeling implied in the words of verse 3—“sending his own Son”—is expressed even more vividly here in verse 32. If this does not mean that, in a sense, giving up his only-begotten and fathomlessly beloved Son was for the Father a genuine sacrifice, words no longer have meaning.

It is possible to think of a judge who does not spare a vicious criminal but pronounces on him the severe sentence he deserves. It is not inconceivable that such a judge might afterward enjoy a good night’s sleep.

But what we have here in Rom. 8:32 is something else. The following facts should be kept in mind:

God, the Judge, has a Son, an only Son, very precious to him. That Son never committed any sin. In all he did he was ever pleasing his Father (John 8:29).

On the other hand:

We all like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way.

Isa. 53:6.

Yet, on this precious and beloved Son God now pronounces the sentence we deserved. It is a sentence immeasurable in its severity, and is carried out in every detail. God did not spare his Son, did not mitigate the severity of the sentence in any way whatever, the Son himself agreeing with the Father and the Spirit in all this. He, the Son, fully bore that horrendous curse. He drank the cup of unspeakable agony to the very last drop. “That bitter cup, Love drank it up. It’s empty now for me.” See Isa. 53; Rom. 5:6–8; 8:3, 4; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13. It would have been unthinkable for God to reject the demands of his justice. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25).

We ask, “But why was the curse lifted from our shoulders and transferred to the Son of God?” The answer is: So deeply, intensely, and marvelously did God love the world that his Son, the only-begotten, he gave, in order that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have life everlasting. Is not that the meaning of John 3:16?

There is, of course, a resemblance between:

“You [Abraham] have not withheld your son, your only son” (Gen. 22:12, 16)

and

“He [God] did not spare even his own Son …” (Rom. 8:32).

Yet, it is not the similarity which arrests our attention most of all. It is the contrast. Abraham was rescued in the nick of time, and so was his son Isaac. But Christ bore the wrath fully, willingly.

“… for us all.” In accordance with the immediately preceding context, the apostle must have been thinking of all those who love God (verse 28), who were foreknown and foreordained (verse 29), were (or were going to be) called, justified, and glorified (verse 30). To this can be added the similar expressions contained in the statements which follow; namely, the elect (verse 33), those for whom Christ makes intercession (verse 34), those who are “more than conquerors” (verse 37). It was to these people, to them all, to them alone, that the merits of Christ’s death had been, were being, or were going to be savingly applied.

Here again, as in connection with 5:18—see above, pp. 182, 183, it is not at all improbable that when Paul says, “He [God] gave him [his own Son] up for us all,” he included in his thought this idea: “God gave up his Son for Jew and Gentile alike,” for all his dear children regardless of race, sex, nationality, social standing, etc. See also Rom. 3:22, 23, 29; 10:11–13.

“How will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

The argument is from the greater to the lesser, as in 5:9, 10, 15, 17; 11:12, 24. Nothing could ever be a greater gift than the gift of Christ to the church. That gift is clearly implied in the statement, “God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all.” Moreover, even though giving this Son was an unfathomable sacrifice as plainly implied in “God did not spare,” nevertheless, it is never a solitary gift: how will he not also together with him graciously—that is ungrudgingly, freely, gladly, generously—give us all things?

I can see no good reason to limit the expression “all things” to spiritual blessings, as some do. Paul was a very practical man. He knew that the people he was addressing were men of flesh and blood, who were vexed at times with worries over matters mundane. The expression “all things” should therefore be interpreted in an unqualified sense: material as well as spiritual things; cf. 8:28, where it has the same broad meaning.[3]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 959–966). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, pp. 287–288). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

May 9 – True Giving Should Anticipate Rewards

When you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.—Matt. 6:3–4

When you give as Jesus directs—lovingly, unpretentiously, and with no concern for public recognition—“your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” In other words, if you remember, God forgets; and if you forget, God still remembers. You should simply try to meet every need you can and leave the bookkeeping to Him. This kind of giving is just a matter of realizing that “we have done only that which we ought to have done” (Luke 17:10).

There is nothing wrong with humbly anticipating our reward for true and honest giving. God knows our hearts, attitudes, and motives, and He will not fail to reward us appropriately. After all, our sovereign Lord knows exactly what everyone is doing (Heb. 4:13).

In giving and every other realm of good works, Jesus Christ is our perfect role model (cf. Eph. 2:10). He preached and taught before crowds large and small, and He did miracles of healing, compassion, and power over nature for many to see and benefit from. But He always focused the final attention on His heavenly Father and did not seek His own glory but the Father’s (John 8:49–50).

Our motive in hoping for any rewards ought to be the anticipation of placing them as offerings at the Lord’s feet, like the twenty-four elders who “will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power’ ” (Rev. 4:10–11).

ASK YOURSELF

Like with any sinful tendency you wish to conquer, the secret is daily obedience, even in the smallest ways, not wanting to give the enemy the slightest opening for victory. In what ways could the day ahead likely give you an opportunity to practice this—to seek God’s reward alone?[1]


The Practice and Reward of True Giving

But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (6:3–4)

To not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing was possibly a proverbial expression that simply referred to doing something spontaneously, with no special effort or show. The right hand was considered the primary hand of action, and in a normal day’s work the right hand would do many things as a matter of course that would not involve the left hand. Giving to help those in need should be a normal activity of the Christian, and he should do it as simply, directly, and discreetly as possible.

The most satisfying giving, and the giving that God blesses, is that which is done and forgotten. It is done in love out of response to a need, and when the need is met the giver goes on about his business, not waiting for or wanting recognition. What has been done should even be a secret to our left hand, not to mention to other people. Whether the person we help is grateful or ungrateful should not matter as far as our own purpose is concerned. If he is ungrateful, we are sorry for his sake, not our own.

It is said that there was a special, out-of-the-way place in the Temple where shy, humble Jews could leave their gifts without being noticed. Another place nearby was provided for the shy poor, who did not want to be seen asking for help. Here they would come and take what they needed. The name of the place was the Chamber of the Silent. People gave and people were helped, but no one knew the identities of either group. (Cf. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol. 2 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972], p. 387; Joachim Jeremias,Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969], p. 133; and William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, 2 vols. [rev. ed.; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], 1:171, 188.)

Matthew 6:3 has often been interpreted to mean that all good works are to be done in absolute secrecy. But true righteousness cannot be kept entirely secret, and should not be. “How blessed are those who keep justice, who practice righteousness at all times!” (Ps. 106:3). Isaiah says, “Yet they seek Me day by day, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that has done righteousness, and has not forsaken the ordinance of their God” (Isa. 58:2). John tells us, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:29).

Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had specifically commanded, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). The question is not whether or not our good works should be seen by others, but whether they are done for that end. When they are done “in such a way” that attention and glory are focused on our “Father who is in heaven” rather than on ourselves, God is pleased. But if they are done to be noticed by men (6:1), they are done self-righteously and hypocritically and are rejected by God. The difference is in purpose and motivation. When what we do is done in the right spirit and for the right purpose, it will almost inevitably be done in the right way.

The teachings of Matthew 5:16 and 6:1 are often thought to conflict with each other because it is not recognized that they relate to different sins. The discrepancy is only imaginary. In the first passage Jesus is dealing with cowardice, whereas in the second He is dealing with hypocrisy. A. B. Bruce gives the helpful explanation, “We are to show when tempted to hide and hide when tempted to show.”

Never in the history of the church have Christians been so bombarded with appeals to give money, many of them to legitimate and worthwhile causes. Knowing how and where to give is sometimes extremely difficult. Christians are to give regularly and systematically to the work of their local church. “On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper” (1 Cor. 16:2). But we are also called to give directly to those in need when we have opportunity and ability. Both the Old and New Testaments make it clear that willing, generous giving has always characterized the faithful people of God.

God does not need our gifts, because He is entirely sufficient in Himself. The need is on our part and on the part of those we serve in His name. Paul told the Philippian church, “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account” (Phil. 4:17).

Giving is described in the Old Testament as a part of God’s cycle of blessing. “The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered” (Prov. 11:25). As we give, God blesses, and when God blesses us we give again out of what He has given. “You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the Lord your God blesses you” (Deut. 16:10). We are to give freely out of what God has given freely.

The cycle applies not only to material giving but to every form of giving that is done sincerely to honor God and to meet need. The way of God’s people has always been the way of giving.

From Scripture we learn of at least seven principles to guide us in nonhypocritical giving. First, giving from the heart is investing with God. “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38). Paul echoes Jesus’ words: “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6).

Second, genuine giving is to be sacrificial. David refused to give to the Lord that which cost him nothing (2 Sam. 24:24). Generosity is not measured by the size of the gift itself, but by its size in comparison to what is possessed. The widow who gave “two small copper coins” to the Temple treasury gave more than all the “many rich people [who] were putting in large sums” because “they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41–44).

Third, responsibility for giving has no relationship to how much a person has. A person who is not generous when he is poor will not be generous if he becomes rich. He might then give a larger amount, but he will not give a larger proportion. “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:10). It is extremely important to teach children to give generously to the Lord with whatever small amounts of money they get, because the attitudes and patterns they develop as children are likely to be the ones they follow when they are grown. Giving is not a matter of how much money one has but of how much love and care is in the heart.

Fourth, material giving correlates to spiritual blessings. To those who are not faithful with mundane things such as money and other possessions, the Lord will not entrust things that are of far greater value. “If therefore you have not been faithful in the use ofunrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:11–12).

Many young men have dropped out of seminary because they could not handle money, and the Lord did not want them in His ministry. Others have begun in the ministry but later dropped out for the same reason. Still others remain in the ministry but produce little fruit because God will not commit the care of eternal souls to them when they cannot even manage their own finances. Spiritual influences and effectiveness have a lot to do with how well finances are handled.

Fifth, giving is to be personally determined. “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Righteous giving is done from a righteous and generous heart, not from legalistic percentages or quotas. The Macedonian Christians gave abundantly out of their deep financial poverty because spiritually they were rich in love (2 Cor. 8:1–2). The Philippian believers gave out of the spontaneous generosity of their hearts, not because they felt compelled (Phil. 4:15–18).

Sixth, we are to give in response to need. The early Christians in Jerusalem shared their resources without reservation. Many of their fellow believers had become destitute when they trusted in Christ and were ostracized from their families and lost employment because of their faith. Years later Paul collected money from the Galatian churches to help meet the great needs that continued to exist among the saints in Jerusalem and that had been intensified by famine.

There have always been charlatans who manufacture needs and play on the sympathy of others. And there have always been professional beggars, who are able to work but would rather not. A Christian has no responsibility to support such people and should take reasonable care to determine if and when real need exists before giving his money. “If anyone will not work,” Paul says, “neither let him eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Encouraging indolence weakens the character of the one who is indolent and also wastes the Lord’s money. But where real need does exist, our obligation to help meet it also exists.

Seventh, giving demonstrates love, not law. The New Testament contains no commands for specified amounts or percentages of giving. The percentage we give will be determined by the love of our own hearts and the needs of others.

All of the previous principles point to the obligation to give generously because we are investing in God’s work, because we are willing to sacrifice for Him who sacrificed Himself for us, because it has no bearing on how much we have, because we want spiritual riches more than financial riches, because we have personally determined to give, because we want to meet as much need as we can, and because our love compels us to give.

As in every area of righteousness, the key is the heart, the inner attitude that motivates what we say and do. Public righteousness is not to be rejected, but it is to be done in the spirit of humility, love, and sincerity. “For we are [God’s] workmanship,” Paul reminds us, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Also as in every area of righteousness, Jesus Himself is our supreme and perfect example. He preached His messages in public, He performed His miracles of healing, compassion, and power over nature in public. Yet He continually focused attention on His heavenly Father, whose will alone He came to do (John 5:30; cf. 4:34; 6:38). Even though He was one with the Father, while He lived on earth as a man Jesus did not seek His own glory but that of His Father (John 8:49–50).

When we give our alms … in secret, lovingly, unpretentiously, and with no thought for recognition or appreciation, our Father who sees in secret will repay us. The principle is this: if we remember, God will forget; but if we forget, God will remember. Our purpose should be to meet every need we are able to meet and leave the bookkeeping to God, realizing that “we have done only that which we ought to have done” (Luke 17:10).

God will not miss giving a single reward. “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). The Lord knows our hearts, our attitudes, and our motives, and every reward that is due us will be given.

It is God’s perfect plan and will to give rewards to those who faithfully trust and obey Him. And it is not unspiritual to expect and anticipate those rewards, if we do so in a spirit of humility and gratitude-knowing that God’s rewards manifest His grace to the undeserving. We can meet His merciful requirements for rewards, but we can never truly earn them.

The greatest reward a believer can have is the knowledge that he has pleased his Lord. Our motive for looking forward to His rewards should be the anticipation of casting them as an offering at His feet, even as the twenty-four elders one day “will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power’ ” (Rev. 4:10–11).[2]


6:3, 4 When a follower of Christ does a charitable deed, it is to be done in secret. It should be so secret that Jesus told His disciples: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Jesus uses this graphic figure of speech to show that our charitable deed should be for the Father, and not to gain notoriety for the giver.

This passage should not be pressed to prohibit any gift that might be seen by others, since it is virtually impossible to make all one’s contributions strictly anonymous. It simply condemns the blatant display of giving.[3]


3–4 The way to avoid hypocrisy is not to cease giving but to do so with such secrecy that we scarcely know what we have given. Jesus’ disciples must themselves be so given to God (cf. 2 Co 8:5) that their giving is prompted by obeying God and having compassion on others. Then their Father, who sees what is done in secret (Heb 4:13), will reward them. The verb “to reward” (apodidomai, GK 625), with God as subject, here and in vv. 6, 18, is different from that used in v. 2. Bonnard rightly notes it has a sense of “pay back,” and this is compatible with “reward” (see comments at 5:12). “Openly” (KJV), here and in vv. 6, 18, is a late gloss designed to complete the antithetic parallelism with “secretly” or “in secret.” Jesus does not discuss the locale and nature of the reward, but we will not be far from the NT evidence if we understand it to be “both in time and in eternity, both in character and in felicity” (Broadus).[4]


  1. But when you give to charity, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. The two hands almost always act in unison. Together they often lift, carry, and catch things. They are together in work and in play. They can therefore be viewed as being thoroughly acquainted with each other. Whatever the one does, the other knows. Symbolically speaking therefore, for the left hand not to know what the right hand is doing means total lack of acquaintance, utter ignorance. And since the hands are part of the person, the expression probably refers to the fact that as much as possible a person must keep his voluntary contribution a secret not only to others but even to himself; that is, he should forget about it, instead of saying in his heart, “What a good man, woman, boy, girl, am I!” This explanation receives support from 25:37–39, where the righteous are represented as being totally unaware of their own past benevolent deeds. Continued: 4. that your deeds of charity may be (performed) in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. It is God who keeps the account. Nothing escapes him (Gen. 16:13; Ps. 139; Heb. 4:13; cf. John 21:17). It is he who on the judgment day will grant the reward (Matt. 25:34–36) to the surprised well-doers. And are there not anticipatory rewards even now, such as a good conscience and rejoicing along with the recipients?

As far as grammar is concerned, the correct Greek text can also be rendered, “… and your Father, the seeing One, will reward you in secret.” Objections to this construction: a. After the introduction, which refers to hypocrites who do their best to have men admire their good works, and in which Jesus admonishes his hearers that these works must not be advertised but must be kept as secret as possible, we rather look for a statement to the effect that unadvertised deeds will, nevertheless, be seen and rewarded, namely, by “your Father who sees in secret.” The sudden introduction of the Father as “the seeing One,” without modifier, would make little sense here. b. Scripture everywhere proclaims that all of men’s words, actions, etc., including what occurred in secret, will become public (Eccl. 12:14; Matt. 5:3–12; 10:26, 27; Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17; 12:2, 3; Rom. 2:16; 1 Cor. 3:13; 14:25; Rev. 20:12, 13). The idea that deeds of kindness toward the poor, done in secret, will remain secret forever, even the reward being bestowed in secret, clashes with this prevailing teaching.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 138). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 356–360). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1223). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 198). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, p. 321). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

MAY 9 GOD IS AN ARTIST!

The children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses: so they pitched by their standards, and so they set forward, every one after their families, according to the house of their fathers.

—Numbers 2:34

I remember as a young Christian when I got my first awful, wonderful, entrancing vision of God. I was in West Virginia in the woods sitting on a log reading the Scriptures along with an old Irish evangelist by the name of Robert J. Cunningham, now long in heaven. I got up and wandered away to have prayer by myself. I had been reading one of the driest passages imaginable from the Scriptures where Israel came out of Egypt and God arranged them into a diamond-shaped camp. He put Levi in the middle and Reuben out in front and Benjamin behind. It was a diamond-shaped moving city with a flame of fire in the middle giving light. Suddenly it broke over me; God is a geometrician, He’s an artist! When He laid out that city He laid it out skillfully, diamond-shaped with a plume in the middle, and it suddenly swept over me like a wave of the sea: how beautiful God is and how artistic and how poetic and how musical, and I worshiped God there under that tree all by myself. WMJ023-024

Lord, You’ve displayed Your artistry and poetry throughout all of Your great creation. Help us not to miss the beauty around us and in doing so miss such an important aspect of Your person. Amen. [1]


34 As in 1:54, these words of absolute compliance contrast with Israel’s later folly. This verse also speaks of significant order—a major accomplishment for a people so numerous, so recently enslaved, and more recently a mob in disarray. The text speaks well of the administrative leadership of Moses, God’s reluctant prophet, and of the work done by the twelve worthies who were the leaders of each tribe. Certainly the text points to the mercy of God and his blessing on the people. It may have been the beauty of the order of this plan of encampment that led the unlikely prophet Balaam to say, “How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, / your dwelling places, O Israel!” (Nu 24:5).

Fittingly, Balaam’s words—the gasp of an outsider—became among the most treasured in the community. Cyrus Gordon wrote of them, “They have remained the most cherished passages in Scripture throughout Synagogue history” (Before the Bible: The Common Background of Greek and Hebrew Civilizations [London: Collins, 1962], 41). In receiving praise from the outsider Balaam, the order and beauty of the camp must continue to stir the heart of the faithful to exhibit even more robust praise. Again the book of Numbers, despite our initial misgivings, is a book of worship.[2]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Allen, R. B. (2012). Numbers. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Numbers–Ruth (Revised Edition) (Vol. 2, p. 100). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 9 – Trials’ Lessons: We See Greater Reward

“And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace … will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”

1 Peter 5:10

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Successful endurance of present trials leads to greater focus on glorifying God in the future.

Sufferings and trials teach us patience. However, in Heaven we won’t need to have patience, and therefore it is not the major long–term lesson God wants us to learn from trials. He is far more pleased if we grasp the truth that what we suffer now is directly related to our ability to glorify Him in eternity. Worshiping God will be our role in Heaven (Rev. 4–5), and Paul reminds us that “if we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2:12). In other words, if we learn to endure trials and tribulations now, we can expect to receive great reward in eternity. I believe that reward is primarily the capacity to glorify God; and therefore the greater our present endurance, the greater will be our capability to glorify Him in the future.

At one point during Jesus’ ministry with the disciples, two of them—brothers James and John—desired that He appoint them to the two positions of greatest prestige in His kingdom—seats at His right and left hands (see Matt. 20:20–23). James and John recognized the concept of eternal rewards, but they did not understand how it works. Thus Jesus asked them if they were ready to endure the cup of suffering and death (as He was) prior to occupying such powerful positions in His kingdom (v. 22). This implies again that endurance in trials and advancement in future glory are correlated. (Jesus endured the greatest suffering on the cross, and He was raised to the highest position, at the Father’s right hand.)

The application for us from all this is clear: the Lord wants us to realize that the end of every trial contains much satisfaction and joy because we are building up our future capacity to glorify Him. At the same time, we are comprehending more and more about the value of persevering through all sorts of pain and tribulation (see Rev. 2:10).

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Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to give you the desire to see the benefits of trials from an eternal perspective.

For Further Study: Read Revelation 4–5. What attributes of God do you see, directly or indirectly, that are worthy of eternal praise?[1]


Hope

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (5:10)

Hope provides believers with the settling confidence that after the trouble and difficulty of this life, they can count on God glorifying them in heaven. And during this life, they can count on His continued work of sanctifying them through their suffering (cf. Ps. 33:18; Prov. 10:28; Rom. 4:18–21; 5:5; Gal. 5:5; Titus 1:2; 2:13; Heb. 3:6; 6:19; see also the discussion of 1:3, 13, 21 concerning hope, in chapters 2, 5, and 6 of this volume). For them to fully appreciate that future purpose, believers must realize that it may come only after they have suffered for a little while (cf. Rom. 8:18; see also the discussion of 1:6 in chapter 3 of this volume). Christians need not fear suffering, knowing that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:31–39).

Peter calls God the God of all grace, which is reminiscent of Paul’s title the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). God has already promised grace for eternity; here grace is provided for the present (cf. 4:10; 5:5; Rom. 12:3; 16:20; 1 Cor. 3:10; 15:10; 2 Cor. 1:12; 9:8; 12:9; Eph. 3:7; 4:7; Phil. 1:7; 2 Tim. 2:1; Heb. 4:16; 12:15; 13:9; James 4:6; 2 Peter 3:18), to strengthen believers and make their Christian character what it ought to be.

The apostle further notes that God has called believers (a reference to His effectual, saving call; cf. 1:15; 2:9, 21; 3:9) to His eternal glory in Christ (1:4–7; 4:13; 5:1, 4). The glory to which saints are called is described by Paul in Philippians 3:11–14,

In order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The apostle John also describes it in 1 John 3:2–3,

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

The saints’ glory will be to be made like Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20–21). Because of that objective, God will Himself (personally), in the meantime while they are still here—and even when the devil attacks them—use believers’ suffering to mold them into Christ’s image (cf. 2 Thess. 3:3). Peter concisely describes the promise of that earthly, sanctifying process of spiritual maturation by God with four nearly synonymous words: perfect (to bring to wholeness; cf. Phil. 1:6; Heb. 2:10; 10:1; James 1:4); confirm (to set fast; cf. Pss. 90:17; 119:106; Rom. 15:8; 1 Cor. 1:8); strengthen (to make sturdy; cf. Luke 22:32; 1 Thess. 3:2; 2 Thess. 2:17; 3:3; James 5:8); and establish (to lay as a foundation; cf. Pss. 7:9; 89:2; Isa. 9:7; Rom. 16:25; 1 Thess. 3:13). These terms all connote strength and immovability, which God wants for all believers as they face the spiritual battle (1 Cor. 15:58; 16:13; Eph. 6:10; 2 Tim. 2:1). He sets them firmly on the truth of divine revelation, where they stand in faith and confidence until they realize their eternal glory.

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is consistent with Peter’s promise here:

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:17–19)[2]


5:10 True victory in persecution is to see God behind the scenes working out His wonderful purposes. No matter what our trials, we should remember first of all that He is the God of all grace. This lovely title of our God reminds us that His dealings with us are not based on what we deserve, but on His thoughts of love to us. No matter how fierce our testing, we can always be thankful we are not in hell where we ought to be.

A second strong consolation is that He has called us to His eternal glory. This enables us to look beyond the sufferings of this life to the time when we shall be with the Savior and be like Him forever. Just think of it! We have been picked up from the scrap heap and called to His eternal glory!

A third comfort is that suffering is just for a while. When contrasted with the eternal glory, life’s afflictions are less than momentary.

The final encouragement is that God uses suffering to educate us and mold our Christian character. He is training us for reigning. Four aspects of this training process are listed.

Perfect—Trials make the believer fit; they supply needed elements in his character to make him spiritually mature.

Establish—Suffering makes Christians more stable, able to maintain a good confession, and to bear up under pressure. This is the same word the Lord Jesus used with Peter: “… strengthen [or establish] your brethren” (Luke 22:32).

Strengthen—Persecution is intended by Satan to weaken and wear out believers, but it has the opposite effect. It strengthens them to endure.

Settle—This verb is related to the word “foundation” in the original. God wants every believer to be firmly planted in a secure place in His Son and in His word.

Lacey says:

The inevitable suffering of the Christian life always yields the same blessed result in the character of believers; it will refine the faith, adjust the character, establish, strengthen and settle the people of God.[3]


10 Peter understands well the bonds of koinonia that encourage perseverance in the faith. And the end of the matter, after the saints “have suffered a little while,” is that the Lord, “the God of all grace,” the one “who called [kaleō, GK 2813, also in 1:15; 2:9, 21; 3:6, 9] you to his eternal glory in Christ,” will respond in four ways: he will “restore” (katartizō, GK 2936), he will “make firm” or establish (stērizō, GK 5114), he will “make strong” (sthenoō, GK 4964), and he will “make steadfast [like a foundation]” (themelioō, GK 2530). That is, the Lord himself will make things right, he will place them squarely on their feet, he will impart new strength and firmness, and he will settle their hearts and lives, freeing them from anxiety and allowing them to persevere. This is his promise.[4]


10. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

What a beautiful benediction! It sparkles in its simplicity, yet in depth it is profound. Every word is significant in this prayer.

  1. “And the God of all grace.” The connective particle and, which some translators understand as but to show contrast with the immediately preceding verse, introduces a fitting prayer at the conclusion to the epilogue. In this prayer Peter calls upon “the God of all grace.” The wording occurs only here in the New Testament, with the exception of a parallel in 2 Corinthians 1:3, where Paul writes, “the God of all comfort.” Peter intimates that God is the source, the possessor, and the giver of all grace. He mentions the concept grace repeatedly in his epistle. The apostle teaches that God’s grace is rich and varied (4:10) and is given to those who are humble (5:5).
  2. “Who called you to his eternal glory in Christ.” The term call is not merely an invitation which a person can accept or reject as he pleases. “It is a divine summons.” It is a royal command which the recipient must obey and cannot ignore.

Moreover, Peter reveals that God calls us to holiness (1:15), to his wonderful light (2:9), to serve (2:21; 3:9), and to eternal glory (5:10). This calling is effectual and is the consequence of election, by which God chooses, sanctifies, and summons us to obedience (1:2).

Notice that Peter adds the name of Christ when he says that God called the recipients of his letter “to his eternal glory.” That is, God called them effectively in Christ. God has chosen them in Christ “before the creation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) and has called them in him in this present age (Rom. 8:30). The good news is that they will share in God’s eternal glory (see 4:13; 5:1, 4).

  1. “After you have suffered a little while.” Peter specifies that entering God’s eternal glory takes place after the believers have experienced a short period of suffering. The contrast between the brevity of human suffering and the eternity of God’s glory is clear. For the moment the intensity of suffering seems severe, but it is both little and of short duration compared to the glory of eternity (1:6; Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17).
  2. “[God] will himself restore you.” The basic meaning of the Greek word for “restore” is to repair that which has been broken so as to make it complete. Paul urges Christian brothers and sisters to restore gently a person who has fallen into a sin (Gal. 6:1). In his mercy, God takes the fallen sinner and perfects him; that is, makes him what he ought to be. A commendable translation is this: “[God] will see that all is well again” (JB).
  3. “And make you strong, firm and steadfast.” The New International Version has a series of three adjectives, but the Greek has three verbs: “confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (NASB).37 God continues the work of restoring man. Says Peter, God makes the believers strong in their faith. The apostle remembers the words Jesus spoke to him on the night of the betrayal: “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32, italics added). In the Greek, Peter uses the same word that Jesus spoke to him.

The next verb, translated “make you firm” (NIV), occurs only here in the New Testament and all of Greek literature. The last verb, “to make steadfast,” literally means “to lay a foundation,” and figuratively, “to establish.”38 These verbs are synonymous and serve to emphasize the significance of God’s work in us. With this prayer Peter encourages the believers, who experience untold suffering for Christ, and gives them the assurance that God stands next to them.

  1. “To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” This is the conclusion of Peter’s prayer. Except for the omission of the word glory and in the Greek the deletion of the verb to be, this doxology is a repetition of an earlier passage (4:11). In a few passages the expression power occurs (1 Tim. 6:16; 1 Peter 4:11; 5:11; Jude 25; Rev. 1:6; 5:13). Along with other terms it describes majesty and grandeur. It is a term used as an attribute or title for rulers (kings and emperors) and for God.

A verb must be supplied in this doxology. Thus most translators insert the optative of wish: “To him be power.” Others choose the indicative mood and write either “is” (“dominion is his” [Moffatt]), “holds” (“he holds dominion” [NEB]), “belongs” (“power belongs to him” [SEB]), or “lasts” (“his power lasts” [JB]).

The last word in this doxology is “Amen.” That is, so let it be! With this concluding term Peter has ended his formal letter. In the rest of his epistle he writes final greetings and the benediction.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 286–288). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2281–2282). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 355). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, pp. 204–206). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

May 9 – Not What I Should Be

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected.

Philippians 3:12

We are not yet what we should be, what we can be, or what we will be when we see the Lord. Our spiritual race begins with a sense of dissatisfaction. Paul started his race with the awareness that he had not arrived.

I can echo Paul’s testimony. After many years of walking with the Lord and being involved in ministry, I am acutely aware that I am not what I ought to be. Like every other believer, I am still in the process of growth. People who become content with where they are spiritually have reached a dangerous point. They are probably insensitive to sin and will tend to defend themselves when they should admit their weakness and seek help.

Spiritual growth begins like any race—the runner knows the distance he has to run and puts forth maximum effort right to the finish line. Paul’s goal was to become perfect, but knowing he hadn’t reached it yet didn’t deter him. And neither should it deter you.[1]


Pursuing the Prize Requires a Proper Awareness

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, (3:12a)

All that believers are now in Christ and will enjoy forever in heaven is eternally fixed by God’s gracious purpose (cf. 1 Peter 1:4). That spiritual reality and promise cannot be improved upon, but believers’ virtue in this present life can and must be. Knowing that we are not now what we should be, and what we someday will be in glory, must not produce apathy and indolence, but a zeal for moving in the direction of the prize. That is the Spirit’s work in us (2 Cor. 3:18) and the longing of the regenerated soul. The awareness of the need to improve one’s spiritual condition is a necessary prerequisite to pursuing the prize of spiritual perfection.

Paul had that awareness, and expressed it in the two words that begin verse 12, not that. He had not yet obtained (from lambanō; “to receive,” “acquire,” or “attain”) the prize he pursued; he had not yet become perfect (from teleioō; “to attain perfection,” “reach a goal,” or “accomplish”). The twice-repeated word already indicates that Paul was still imperfect when he wrote this epistle.

Despite the rich blessings that were his in Christ, the apostle knew that he was not perfect. His knowledge of Christ was still incomplete (1 Cor. 13:12). Christ’s righteousness had been imputed to him (2 Cor. 5:21), yet he still needed to “cleanse [himself] from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). Paul had Christ’s power at work in him (1 Cor. 15:10; Col. 1:29), but that power still worked through his weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). The rich fellowship with Christ that he experienced was also imperfect; he still did not know how to pray as he should, and depended on the Holy Spirit to intercede for him (Rom. 8:26–27). While his body was a temple of the glorious Holy Spirit who indwelt him (1 Cor. 6:19), Paul longed for the day when Christ “will transform the body of [his] humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21).

Obviously, pursuing the prize of spiritual perfection begins with dissatisfaction with one’s present spiritual condition. Those who think they have reached spiritual perfection will not see the need to pursue a better condition; why should they chase something they believe they already have? Such complacent, contented people are in grave danger of becoming insensitive to their sin and blind to their weaknesses. It is only those who are aware of their desperate spiritual need who come to Christ for salvation (Matt. 5:6). And it is only those who continue to recognize the need to eliminate sin and cultivate holiness who will make progress in the Christian life. This pursuit by the power of the sanctifying Spirit produces a decreasing frequency of sin and increasing love for holiness, which makes less sin feel like more. The truly mature and godly have the most sensitive awareness of their sins, and are the humblest before God because of it.[2]


Following the Living Christ

Philippians 3:12

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

I am not sure what humorist it was who first defined an ideal as “something that everyone is expected to honor but nobody is expected to attain,” but many people think of Christian discipleship in this way. That is unfortunate. The goals of discipleship are not unattainable ideals, and the Bible does not allow us to escape the demands of Christian discipleship by the excuse that the standards of that calling are too high.

Our study of Philippians has already brought us to two verses that were an expression of Paul’s great and lifelong desire to know Jesus Christ. He wrote of his desire to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (3:10). Paul lived this desire. But as he wrote these words the great apostle must have realized that there would be some among his readers at Philippi, as there are today also, who would dismiss them as something that no Christian could possibly be expected to accomplish. They would admit that the ideal was a good one, but they would call it totally unpractical.

Paul does not allow this kind of thinking to continue. He immediately adds that although even he has not realized the goal in its entirety, he is still trying; and we must understand him to imply that his readers should be trying also. He writes, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12).

Paul’s confession is not only a statement of the demands of Christian discipleship; it is also an announcement of the principles by which this calling should be realized. First, Paul acknowledges that he was called by Christ Jesus. Second, he notes that God had a purpose in calling him. Third, he acknowledges that this puts an obligation on himself—the obligation to follow after Jesus. If you and I are to be disciples, these principles must also be a part of our goals and Christian understanding.

The God of Beginnings

It is very important to recognize that all discipleship begins with God’s call or, as Paul says, with being taken hold of by Christ Jesus. God’s call must be foremost, for nothing can take place spiritually in a person’s life until this happens. Actually, it involves the creation of spiritual life. It would be foolish for a person to enter a funeral home to encourage the corpses to lead an upright life. If the words were to have any purpose, the corpses would first have to be made alive. In the same way, the call to discipleship must begin with the power of God to make a spiritually dead person alive, for only then are the standards of that calling significant.

This is what the new birth means. Before conversion God says that a person is dead in his trespasses and sins. The person is alive physically and intellectually, but he is not alive spiritually. Thus, he cannot respond to spiritual stimuli. While he is in this state the Word of God is a hidden book to him, and the gospel of Jesus Christ is nonsense. Then God touches his life. God’s touch brings life out of death, the life of the spirit, and the person then believes in Jesus Christ and begins to understand the Bible. This is what it means to be taken hold of by God. This must happen first before there can be any true discipleship. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16).

We find examples of this throughout the Bible. Abraham was taken hold of by God. Did Abraham choose God? Oh, no! He was perfectly satisfied where he was in the Mesopotamian river valley in a pagan culture, but God called him and sent him on his way to Palestine.

Moses was taken hold of by God when he was still a baby floating in the Nile in a basket. God said, “I am going to deliver my people from Egypt, and I am going to do it by means of this baby. I am going to protect him from Pharaoh. I am going to give him the best of this world’s training and education, and I am going to do many miracles through him.” God did these things through Moses.

There is also the story of David. God put his stamp on the future King David when David was still out protecting the sheep. God sent the prophet Samuel to David’s home to anoint one of the sons in the family of the future king. The father brought out all his sons in order, except David. Samuel looked at the boys and thought how good a king the oldest son, Eliab, would make. But before Samuel could anoint him God indicated that he was not the one. Next came Abinadab, who was not the future king either. Then there was Shammah, and so on until seven of Jesse’s sons were presented. “But Samuel said to him, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ So he asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’ ‘There is still the youngest,’ Jesse answered, ‘but he is tending the sheep.’ Samuel said, ‘Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.’ So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; he is the one.’ So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power” (1 Sam. 16:10–13). Once again, it was God who took hold of David.

We come to the New Testament, and we find that God chose John the Baptist before he was born. Jesus called his disciples while they were still fishermen. God called Paul when he was in the process of persecuting Christians. In every case the call of God was primary. This has always been the foundation stone of true discipleship.

Are you also one of God’s children? Has he picked you up and made you his? Has he given you spiritual life so you can now understand his love, grace, and other biblical doctrines? Or are you just pretending Christianity? If you are only pretending, then you must begin where the others have begun. You must begin by acknowledging God’s call to you in Christ Jesus and your need for him, and you must commit yourself to him.

God’s Purpose

The second step in becoming an effective disciple of Jesus Christ is to be aware of the purpose for which he has called you. Paul says, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12). What is that thing for which the apostle Paul and we as Christians have been taken hold of?

The answer is spelled out in Romans 8:28–29. Most Christians know the first of these verses, as we noted earlier in chapter 5. It says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It says that God has a purpose in saving us. But not many Christians know the verse that follows this, in spite of the fact that it goes on to tell what the purpose is. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” What was God’s purpose in saving you? His purpose was that you might be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, God saved you to make you as holy, pure, gracious, and loving as Jesus.

At this point I can almost hear someone saying, “Well, if that is the case, I’ll just wait for God to do it. I’ll enjoy that holiness in heaven.” But this is not the way Paul means it. Paul had a great sense of the present demands of discipleship. Everything he mentions in this chapter has to do with the Christian’s present conduct.

When Paul speaks of knowing Jesus Christ, in verse 10, he is speaking of knowing him now. He wants to experience Christ even in the midst of life’s sufferings. When he speaks of attaining to the resurrection from the dead, in verse 11, he is speaking of a spiritual resurrection now. It is the attainment of a kind of life so filled with Christ that those who do not know him will regard it as the life of eternity. In verses 13 and 14 Paul speaks of a present striving for the best that God has for him now. Our present text is similar. Paul is saying that he wishes to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ now.

This should be your desire also. It should be. If it is not, it will become your desire more and more as you begin to realize that this was God’s greatest purpose in calling you to faith in the Lord Jesus.

Following Christ

The first two of these points now lead to a very practical conclusion, for Paul writes that because God has called him and because he has done so for a purpose, he himself must determine to follow after Jesus. This means that God’s calling always puts an obligation on his children.

This is personal. Discipleship is always personal. Remember how it was with Peter. Peter frequently avoided personal contact with Jesus by speaking impetuously and often on behalf of the Twelve. But when Jesus came to recommission him after Peter’s denial there was no escaping a personal response. Jesus asked a very simple question, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Peter had to answer for himself, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” It happened three times, and each time Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” At this point Peter’s mind turned to someone else. He noticed John, the beloved disciple, standing nearby and asked Jesus about him: “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:15–22). Discipleship can never be conditioned upon God’s plans for some other Christian. Christ’s call is always the personal one to “Follow me.”

It is also true that discipleship is costly. In fact, it costs a person his all. There are always Christians who think that they can be Christ’s disciples piecemeal. They think that they can follow him an inch at a time after first assuring themselves that there is no danger and that following him also conforms to their own plans for themselves and their future. But this is not discipleship at all. Discipleship means abandoning your sin, your past, your own conception of yourself, your plans for your own future, even at times your friends or your family, if that is God’s will for you, and following Jesus.

You may be saying, “But isn’t that hard? To give up the things I treasure?” Well, it is true that it is hard sometimes. But it is also true that there is a far greater sense in which we really never give anything up in the service of our Lord. We give things up, but Christ gives us more. And even the things we surrender are so arranged by God that they work for our spiritual well-being.

Peter learned this once in his life in a conversation that he had with Jesus. Mark tells us that just before Christ’s final journey to Jerusalem there was a point when Peter was bragging as usual, in this case reminding the Lord of his sacrifices in order to serve him. He said, “We have left everything to follow you!” (Mark 10:28). In other words, Peter was reminding the Lord that he was an ideal disciple and that his discipleship had proved costly. What nonsense this was! Peter had left hardly anything. He had certainly not left behind his own idea of what Christ’s ministry was to be, for he was constantly trying to tell Jesus how to go about it. His claim was presumptuous and egotistical. Jesus had this answer for Peter. He said, “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29–30). Jesus was teaching that the disciple suffers no loss for which God will not abundantly compensate.

In one of his most popular works the American novelist and writer Mark Twain told the story of a prince and a pauper. The two boys came from entirely different circumstances, but they looked alike. One day, when chance had accidentally thrown them together, they decided to put on each other’s clothes. The prince donned the pauper’s rags. The poor boy put on the rich one’s finery. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as it eventually turned out), the boys were then separated. The pauper was mistaken for the prince and taken to live in the palace, while the prince was turned back to the poor streets of London where he suffered great indignities before he eventually regained his rightful place and the throne.

In the same way, the Lord Jesus Christ took on our poverty, while we have been clothed in his finery. The Bible says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). He became poor as we were so that we might be clothed in his righteousness. He endured suffering and death that we might become like him—sons of God and coheirs with him of God’s glory.

It is true that the paupers must give up their rags, but there is no comparison between our rags and God’s glory. Jesus has told us that there is nothing given up in this life that is not replaced a hundredfold by spiritual treasure, not only in this world but in eternity also.

Years ago the son of a wealthy American family graduated from Yale University and decided to go out to China as a missionary for Jesus Christ. His name was William Borden. Many of his friends thought him foolish to give up so much of this world’s goods and his future to go there. But Borden loved the Lord Jesus Christ, and he wished to serve him. After only a short time on the field, and before he even reached China, Borden contracted a fatal disease and died. He had given up everything to follow Jesus. But at his bedside his friends found a note that he had written as he lay dying: “No reserve, no retreat, and no regrets.” Borden had given up everything, but he had found a treasure that was beyond words.

Perhaps there is something that God has been asking you to lay aside in order that you might be a more effective witness for him. I do not know what it is. The thing that is a hindrance for one disciple is often entirely different for another. But whatever it is, you know it. At this point in your life, for you it is the touchstone of your discipleship. Will you cast it aside to follow Jesus? If you do, you will grow in your Christian discipleship, and God will bring great blessing into your life and through you also into the lives of others.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 146). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (pp. 244–245). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Boice, J. M. (2000). Philippians: an expositional commentary (pp. 190–195). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.