Flipping the coin

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Mt. 10:34).

Almost any picture we paint of Jesus is lacking. It is especially true of the canvas, but also of the heart. Jesus is complex – infinitely so. When we think we have captured him, some other piece of him floats by and we must pour out all the other pieces and try to put them back together again. Haygood put it this way: Continue reading “Flipping the coin”

No righteousness at all

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Jesus said that a person couldn’t enter the kingdom unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees. One might be inclined to ask: What, exactly, was the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? And how can we exceed it?

To answer the first question in a word: self-righteousness. Continue reading “No righteousness at all”

Satan’s Catspaw

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (Matthew 16:23, ESV)

Peter is the only disciple who was called “Satan” by Jesus. It was the strongest rebuke ever uttered by the Lord to any of the twelve – Judas included.

Moments after Peter was commended for his confession of Jesus as the Christ of God, he was being rebuked for insisting that Jesus need not die in Jerusalem. It was an echo of the temptations Jesus endured from Satan himself (Matthew 4:1-4).

Like Peter, Satan knew Jesus was the Son of God. Like Satan, Peter encouraged Jesus to avoid the cross. Peter had become “Satan’s catspaw” (Robertson).

Continue reading “Satan’s Catspaw”

Saints do not have horns

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

Followers of Christ are forbidden from blasting our horns – doing our good works to be seen of men (Matthew 6:1).

Yet, Jesus also encouraged his disciples to illuminate the world, “that they may see your good works” (Matthew 5:16). Is this a contradiction? Continue reading “Saints do not have horns”

Logically right but spiritually wrong

“Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7).

Following Jesus’ baptism, God said: “This is my beloved son” (Matthew 3:17). Immediately afterward, Jesus was taken to the wilderness to fast and be tested 40 days.

Satan tempted him there. His temptations all began with, “If you are the son of God…” He began with something that seemed perfectly reasonable: make stones into bread and feed yourself.

Men easily err when they think of what is perfectly reasonable to them, but fail to consult God. Why not turn stones to bread? He had the power. He had the opportunity. Continue reading “Logically right but spiritually wrong”

Are you pulling my leg (off)?

If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell…” (Matthew 5:29-30; see also: Mark 9:43-47).

Would you be surprised to learn that heaven will cost you an arm and a leg? And maybe even an eye?

I believe the above passage presents a great – indeed, an insurmountable – difficulty for those who believe that we incur no cost in our own salvation. Does our obedience to the gospel turn God’s grace into a payment for services rendered?  Continue reading “Are you pulling my leg (off)?”

God’s “theory of everything”

No saying of Jesus is more perplexing than this: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).

I’ve tried most of my life to understand this saying. I’ve heard preaching on it, read books and chapters of books and commentaries about it. It all seems satisfactory in some ways, unfulfilling in others.

Invariably, I will say that it puzzles me, and someone retorts with a statement that sounds as if they figured it out years ago. I’m sorry (not sorry) if I don’t believe you. Continue reading “God’s “theory of everything””

Five (unpopular) things Jesus said about divorce

“…from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8)

In 17 years of ministry (part and full-time), I have met with numerous married, and to-be-married couples. One thing I’ve found by this experience is that to-be-married couples generally understand the concept of adultery, and see it as a legitimate – if not the only – reason for divorce. Even if their Bible knowledge is somewhat limited, or they are not Christians, they will often say that this is the only legitimate grounds for a biblical divorce. I have this in writing from almost every couple I’ve married.

Yet, in nearly every troubled marriage that I’ve tried to help, one or both have a completely different, and non-biblical view of divorce and/or adultery. Continue reading “Five (unpopular) things Jesus said about divorce”