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The Gospel of Reconciliation.

Timely and important thoughts from my good friend, Don @ One Bondservant’s Diary.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthian 5:17-19).

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“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”  They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen…” (Luke 24:30-35).

Only Dr. Luke records this post-resurrection event. Two downcast disciples of Jesus are leaving Jerusalem and returning to their home in Emmaus. They share with their unrecognized Lord how great their crucified Master was. Yet they could not veil the disappointment that their hopes that He was “the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21) had vaporized. “After all,” they said, “it has been 3 days since His death.” Jesus’ response was loving but stern: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26). Then He patiently explained that these events were the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets and that Scripture had pointed to Him from the beginning (v. 27). And when they understood, they rushed back to Jerusalem with a renewed sense of enablement.

These followers of Christ were still living in the past, choosing to dwell upon Friday’s seemingly tragic events. They had been told that he was alive (v. 22-24) but, with their faith shattered and their heads staring down at the dirt road, they solemnly trudged home to their former life back in Emmaus. But they weren’t alone. Peter, along with some of the other disciples, had essentially done the same thing. Jesus had called them to be “fisher’s of men” but where did He find them after He had come victoriously from the grave? Fishing! For fish (see John 21:1-14)! Defeated by their failure to be faithful during Christ’s suffering and hopeless and helpless without the leadership of their Captain, they had returned to the same purposeless way of life they knew before they met Jesus. But upon seeing their risen Lord they made a mad dash to greet Him (John 21:7-8).

This season we celebrate Easter and Jesus’ expression of His continued presence with us, power in us, peace for us, and purpose through us that is clearly demonstrated by His resurrection. In the 40 days (Acts 1:3) before He ascended to the right hand of the Father He continually reminded His followers of those 4 things and made clear statements regarding each (see Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 24:36-49; John 21:15-19; Acts 1:1-11). All of this became a reality for His disciples as they waited in Jerusalem (the very place many had left following His crucifixion) for these promises to be fulfilled by the manifestation of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In other words, it was after Easter that the full impact of His resurrection was most realized in His followers and they, moving forward, led lives that demonstrated His continued presence, power, peace, and purpose. Just read the book of Acts for the dramatic aftermath.

My point? Let us not lose the inertia of our Easter worship and festivities. Many of us will be stirred by exhilarating music, emotional “Passion Plays,” and motivating sermons. But our experience of the profundity of His resurrection is not meant to end there. The influence of His resurrection is to be something that propels us all year around, day by day, moment by moment. Let us not, like these disciples, return to the routine of a former, spiritually trivial life, but let us be continually transformed by the “fellowship of His sufferings and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). May His presence, power, peace and purpose in and through us not fade after the invigorating crescendo of our Easter activities and focus. Instead, may our hearts continue to “burn within us” with an all-consuming passion that can only come from the ongoing sufficiency that His resurrection guarantees.

Let Jesus’ truth resonate with us: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;  and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Do we? Then let us be transported by the truth that His resurrection is to be experienced not just on a holiday but every day before and after. Let us not live like He is still dead. Let us not revert to the old passionless, mundane ways that we rose above during this sacred season. Let us magnify Him through His presence, power, peace, and purpose…even after Easter!


“Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children” (Matthew 14:13-21).

Evangelicals tend to be critical of Roman Catholics for being too liturgical. Evangelicals even label Lutherans and Presbyterians as “God’s Frozen People” for their systematic and ritualistic approach to worship, among other things. Ah, but how often do we, the “orthodox” evangelicals, deviate from the all too sacred “order of worship?” Yes, I know that God is not the author of confusion (or chaos) in worship or anything else (see 1 Corinthians 14:28-38). But this passage doesn’t preclude God from moving outside of our self-imposed routines and order. He, after all, is much larger than that. Have we taken this text out of context and done so for our own emotional comfort? After all, Jesus did criticize the Pharisees for their “vain (empty) repetitions (see Matthew 6:7).

In the account above (which is presented in all four Gospels) we see something surprising. To say the least, it was unexpected. The meeting, it would seem, was over. Jesus had preached (Mark 6:34) and healed and now, according to the disciples, it was time to shut it down. “Send them home,” they wearily told the Master. “We have exhausted our ‘order of worship’ (implied), it’s late, and we are getting hungry. Off to get some chow and rest!” But much to their amazement (and maybe chagrin), Jesus had another idea. He chose to move in an extraordinary way (please do not let the term “extraordinary” pass you by – it simply means out of the ordinary or norm). He decided that this experience should continue and be drastically changed. A miracle was about to take place; food for five thousand from five loaves and two fish. Thankfully, this “service” didn’t end after the benediction or closing praise and worship chorus. Jesus, spontaneous Jesus, had something bigger in mind!

Jesus was not going to be put into a box. He was not going to let God’s work be short-circuited by the comfortable parameters of boundary-inducing men. He knew there was hunger and He was going to feed those who were in need even though those closest to Him clamored for their dismissal. This wasn’t the only time Jesus took what would be considered ordinary and spontaneously made it extraordinary. He wasn’t predictable at all. Some of His greatest revelations and works came during impromptu gatherings, dinners, stonings, casual strolls, fishing expeditions, from boats, and in the midst of storms. In none of these situations was He or God’s movement stifled by some man-made, predetermined plan or order. Jesus let God out of the corner, so to speak, and let His work be accomplished by being sensitive to the situation, aware of God’s movement, and surprisingly spontaneous. Just ponder the number of times the Gospels demonstrate that Jesus caught His listeners off guard as He quickly changed directions.

Now I’m not advocating disordered worship or chaotic church services. Nor am I against tradition itself. Not at all! What I’m suggesting is that we allow God’s Spirit to move in such a way that our practices, methods, orders, plans, formulas, routines, traditions, and, sometimes even, prescriptions don’t hinder true worship and ministry. In other words, let’s not be so programmed and predictable that we don’t allow for God’s Spirit to take us where He wants us to go. Yes, we certainly need structure but not at the expense of missing God’s presence and power. As someone has pointedly said, “Many churches have become so routine and regulated that if the Holy Spirit did show up they would have no room for Him to visit. And they wouldn’t even recognize that He had been there.”

If you are a pastor or small group leader, try something “radically” different. Change the order of things (do something really crazy like preaching or teaching at the beginning of the gathering), expect and allow for Spirit-led spontaneity, and pray God moves outside the boundaries of our self-determined boxes and routines. Who knows, He just may just surprise you…just like Jesus often did.


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-nine – Jesus: The Messenger and the Message

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28-29).

Both the message and the messenger of the Sermon on the Mount prove unique, distinctive, and powerful. The Lord’s discourse is unlike anything ever heard; it completely contrasts ancient teachings and threatened the theological powerbrokers of the time. Not before Christ’s earthly ministry or after it has the world witnessed teaching of such authority, received instruction to prompt such radical change, or found education that so thoroughly challenges and inspires.

Jesus holds the position of the ultimate communicator and was often referred to by the honorable title of “Teacher.” But that designation proves a tremendous understatement. Christ told His followers that as the Messiah, He should be their only teacher (Matthew 23:10). In other words, His message is the only one that truly matters. The Sermon on the Mount, therefore, stands not just as the greatest sermon ever delivered; instead, it serves as the prologue to the incredible sacrifice Christ made at Calvary. It sets the stage for God’s redemptive strategy, proving that God has a plan to change human interactions, to reintroduce selflessness, and to restore fellowship between Himself and man. Two thousand years ago, on a hill outside Jerusalem, Jesus unveils much about His role as King as well as the intricacies of His kingdom. He speaks with divine authority. His words hold life-transforming power!

The Sermon on the Mount reveals Jesus as the Savior of the world. The narrow gate leading to eternal life. Further, Christ fulfills Old Testament Law: only through Him do sinful humans find forgiveness and reconciliation with God. As they sincerely surrender to Jesus, people begin to live by “the law of Christ,” the New Covenant standard (Galatians 6:2). This law of love supersedes, enhances, and deepens the principles of the Old Covenant and sums up the law of the prophets without nullifying them (see Matthew 22:34-40).

To one outside the Christian faith, the standard of living Christ sets in His sermon seems outrageous and impossible. But we must remember that all things—including loving the unlovable, releasing anxiety, and walking in righteousness—are possible in His power (Philippians 4:13). Further, Jesus never asked us to do anything He was unwilling to do. For thirty-three years He lived a mortal life, loving the unlovable, releasing anxiety to the Father, and walking in perfect righteousness. Jesus embodied the message He taught.

As we learn and are empowered to walk in Christ, we live out the mountainside message He shared. What a privilege to follow Him! 

Author’s Note

Not long ago a thirty minute lunch encounter shook my world. On a brief visit to the Wycliffe Bible Translators Ministry in Texas, I met an eighty-year-old translator and missionary who—along with his wife of fifty years—planned a return to the deepest jungles of Africa. I do not remember the man’s name, but I’m certain that God does.

For over ten years the man and his devoted wife worked with a remote and primitive people-group. In that time they translated small portions of the Bible into the villagers’ native tongue—a language for which there were virtually no books. By endearing themselves to the people by giving insight on how to keep the tribe’s newborns alive and free from pestilence, the two earned acceptance and eventually befriended them. Over the years, as they translated the critical New Testament texts and placed them in the hands of those who could communicate biblical truth to the tribe, the missionaries lived in tents and their target audience in huts. Their lives were not easy.

All of this happened several years before I met this devout man. The couple had long ago returned to the States in pursuit of retirement. God, however, gave them a new vision for how to spend their last days: they’d return to that African country to continue their outreach.

“This time we will tell stories of Jesus,” the man explained with a gleam of joy in his eye. “That will be quicker and more effective. The people will pass these stories along to later generations who will never be able to read.”

I asked, as the old missionary rose from the table, when they’d return home to the States.

“Actually,” he quickly replied, “we are going home. We will never return to America. We plan on dying there, in Africa, with our tribe. We have the good news to spread and little time remaining to do so. We have a King to serve and a kingdom to share.”

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1    

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-eight – Radical Transformation Required  

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:21-27).

Central to Christ’s sermon stands the concept of radical transformation. Throughout His discourse Jesus encourages listeners not to just hear the Word of God but to practice it. Repeatedly He states the importance of not just right living, but of living right for the right reasons. When people truly surrender to Christ and allow Him to take ownership, their entire approach to life changes. They exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, value others more than self, and seek to spread Christ’s love. Even when difficulties arise believers can thrive, overcoming life’s storms through the strength He provides.

In Matthew 7:21-27 Christ makes an important distinction between those who check the Christian box on a census form with those who truly accept Him. Our King calls followers to unconditional surrender of our lives, wills, and minds. He confronts us with two truths: neither a verbal profession of His deity nor an intellectual understanding of what He came to accomplish prove sufficient in securing our entry into the kingdom. Neither proves an acceptable substitute for the faith and deep-seated obedience required. Jesus debunks the myth that our relationship with Him can rest solely on what we say about Him or to Him. No creed, formulaic “sinner’s prayer,” or verbal affirmation of Christ’s divine role can save us. God demands absolute capitulation to Christ as Lord. Confession proves a real and necessary part of our conversion, but it must be sincere (see Romans 10:9-11).

Interestingly, the verbal profession “Lord, Lord” made by those Christ rejects proves quite orthodox. But while the designation is accurate and respectful, the Lord hears it as empty words when coming from the mouths of those who claim to know Him without evidencing heart transformation. Although they called Him Lord, these “evildoers” did not fully submit in servitude to His lordship. When to their praise Jesus replies that He never knew them and that they should depart from Him, He reveals that radical transformation is required of those who live as part of His kingdom. This serves as a warning to those who “play Christian.” Claiming we know Christ without allowing Him to transform us proves dangerous and utterly destructive.

Luke’s account of the Sermon provides further insight. In Luke 6:46 Christ asks, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” The critical distinction between an acceptable profession of faith in Christ as opposed to an unacceptable one is this: true followers of Jesus demonstrate heart change through doing Spirit-empowered good works and aiming toward God’s righteous standards. Jesus expects to see Holy Spirit inspired obedience and good works as evidence of our sincerity.

Understanding the gospel message without doing anything to spread it shows a lack of spiritual foundation. Likewise, doing good works in our own efforts or out of a desire to be seen, fails to please God. Jesus refers to a home’s foundation to reveal that the substance of one’s belief is rooted deep within. Should our foundation stand strong, our efforts will follow. Unless we allow the knowledge of Christ’s truth to form a root to nurture transformational obedience, however, we’ll eventually find devastation and destruction.

Chris grew up in the church, was baptized at an early age, and even memorized significant portions of Scripture. But once at college and away from her Christian home and church, she felt overwhelmed by the temptations offered by her new-found freedom and worldly friends. It wasn’t long before Chris dove headlong into parties, drugs, and a promiscuous lifestyle. Her evangelical upbringing no longer influenced her choices. In retrospect she commented, “That was because I was a ‘believer’ but had never really bowed to Christ.” Thankfully, God intervened and made her aware that despite her religious background she was lost. Chris needed to submit totally to Jesus in order to experience His radically transforming presence.

Understand that Jesus never taught salvation by works. We cannot earn our way into Heaven. The Apostle Paul clarified this in explaining that we are saved by grace through the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). As we humbly accept the undeserved grace God bestows and allow our faith in Him to change us from the inside out, we begin to realize the truth of Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We realize that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”; therefore, we set out to serve the Lord in tangible, meaningful ways (see James 2:17).

The Lord desires that we approach Him with hearts brimming with love for Him and genuinely grateful for who He is and all He provides. Acknowledging His existence with shallow words, fleshly deeds, and mere intellectual assent fails to glorify God. We must instead live out His lordship with the heart-righteousness that comes only from the Holy Spirit. As we do, we will view everything in a new light, His light. Our paradigm will change: we will see life as a ministry that images forth the beauty of Jesus. We will look through the lens of Christ-exalting love and find ourselves moved to God-honoring obedience. Once we truly meet Jesus, everything changes.

Apply It.

Read and absorb Second Corinthians 6:3-10. Here Paul mentions that our service should be “in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love.” In what ways do you demonstrate love for the Lord? Does gratitude compel you to live a life that says “thank you” to Him? Commit to let this attitude transform every aspect of your life.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1    

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-seven– Beware of False Teachers

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:15-20).

Interesting that Christ included this warning in His best remembered sermon: “Watch out for false prophets.” The statement encourages people to remain wary of those claiming to speak on God’s behalf: testimonies should be tested and weighed against Christ’s teachings. Jesus’ words to the crowd gathered by the mountain presume that false teachers were present that day; and since He labels the Pharisees as hypocrites and blind guides, we can assume that His warning included them. Later, Jesus cautioned about the end of the age when “many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Matthew 24:11). The Apostle John indicates this increase of such teachers predicates the end (1 John 2:18). Christ-followers, then, should constantly compare the sermons they hear and the devotional studies they read against God’s written Word.

Before we regard all Sunday school teachers and pastors with suspicion, we must recognize that true, godly teaching does exist. God’s Word contains objective truth, and a remnant of teachers who know, study, and proclaim the true message of our King share His teachings accurately. Sadly, their number diminishes as the contemporary western church trends toward Timothy’s prophecy: “The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3). How important that we learn to measure what we hear at church against the standard of God’s Word!

Recently I heard a professor of theology with a universalistic philosophy (the belief that all people are saved and go to Heaven) echo a common sentiment in describing humanity. With great passion he claimed, “Everyone is a child of God!” Unfortunately, many folks accept and believe this false teaching. Although this idea sounds good and appeals to our flesh, the Book of John clearly teaches, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13). In other words, the truth of God’s revelation is that only those who “receive and believe” Jesus are born again and adopted into God’s family—no matter how “unfair” that may seem

Understand that not everyone who misquotes a Bible passage or misinterprets a verse is a false prophet; everyone makes mistakes and can benefit from gentle, private correction in those instances. In Matthew 7:15-20, on the other hand, Jesus focuses on habitually false teachers who look as innocent as sheep but are as destructive as ferocious wolves. While the teachings of such instructors may sound good, their motives are impure; they may have a form of godliness, but they lack heart-righteousness. They may look polished and sincere, but they worry more about draining listeners’ pockets than helping to guide hearts to God. Scripture indicates that false teachers will enjoy popularity as “many follow their ways,” so we must prove discerning as we seek spiritual advisors.

Sincere, righteous teachers of Christ are not identified by the number of followers, adherents, book-buyers, or church members who sing their praises. The size of their operation, their ministry budget, and the number of “healings” or baptisms they perform do not testify to their authenticity. Jesus taught that evaluating the fruit of a person’s character and life provided the best means of weighing their validity. And the fruits that evidence authenticity are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Those who are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money,boastful, proud …without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous,rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power” should be avoided (see 2 Timothy 3:2-5). Such people fail to teach the Word of God with integrity. They take license with it, twisting Scripture to say what they want to hear. Any teacher who handles the Bible lightly usually carries a basketful of rotten spiritual fruit.

Jesus warns of the eventual destruction awaiting false teachers. In a frightening and graphic description He says false teachers will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Second Peter 2:1-3 elaborates:

“[These] false prophets … [and] false teachers among you … will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.”

I can’t overstate the consequences of following shepherds who fail to honor God. We must take care to follow those headed not to eternal destruction but to eternal reward.

The kingdom of Heaven requires that we center our lives on the truth of Jesus and His teachings. We must test what we hear and read against God’s Word, regularly checking the quality of fruit produced in the lives of our instructors. The Bereans who “were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true,” were vigilant in protecting their hearts from ungodly teachings (see Acts 17:11). In following their example, we show seriousness and genuineness in serving Christ.

Apply It.

Contemplate Jesus’ statement to the Pharisees in Matthew 12:33. Do a “fruit” check. Does your life evidence the production of good fruit due to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in you? Ask God to make you a bearer of God-honoring fruit as you daily live for Him.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1    

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-six – Two Paths: One Choice

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Throughout His sermon on the kingdom of Heaven, Jesus contrasts two kinds of righteousness, two types of devotion, two treasures, two masters, and two ambitions. Each comparison points to the question that every person must ask: Will I choose to follow Christ or the world? Matthew 7:13-14 begins to wrap up the sermon, leaving us to choose between two paths. Psalm 1 defines these paths as “the way of righteousness” and “the way of the wicked.” Each individual must choose to live as a citizen of the kingdom of this world or to live in and in anticipation of the ongoing kingdom of God—a decision which necessitates living a godly life. God allowed only one way to enter Heaven: relationship with Jesus (see John 14:6). Humanity cannot create a valid alternative.

In ancient times people felt that doing good works and appeasing the gods led to a peaceful eternity. The Egyptians, for example, believed that a deceased person’s heart would be weighed against a feather.[i] “If the heart was free of the impurities of sin, and therefore lighter than the feather, then the dead person could enter the eternal afterlife.” If not, eternity looked bleak. Many cultures today spread similar ideas, suggesting that an individual can earn his or her way into Heaven or miss out on it should they commit too many wrongs. But Jesus left very different and very specific directions on how one might enter into eternity with God.

First, we must understand that the burden of sin weighs heavily on every heart. This sin separates us from holy God and makes us worthy of condemnation and eternal death. Only when our sin debt gets paid and His wrath against our unrighteousness is satisfied is there forgiveness of sins and restored relationship with God. This happened at Calvary through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus and the required shedding of His blood (see Hebrews 9:22). And how do we receive this forgiveness, the free offer of the salvation that Christ purchased? By faith, believing His Word, and trusting wholly in Him and His redemptive work instead of in ourselves or our self-righteousness (see 2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 1:9). In other words, we must see Jesus as our only hope, the only way that we can have a relationship with God, forgiveness of sin (justification), and eternal life.

Make no mistake; entering into a relationship with Jesus provides the only way to bridge the sin gap that separates man from God. While many take offense to the idea that God does not allow people to approach Him through religion, spirituality, or good works, Scripture clearly teaches that Christ is the “narrow gate”: the only way to enter Heaven. In order to follow Jesus, we’ve got to let go of the self-righteousness, pride, and self-sufficiency that will hold us back as we step through the door. His road—one requiring self-sacrifice and loving service—leads to abundant and eternal life (John 10:10, 3:16).

The easy, broad way Christ mentions describes the path followed by the majority. It appeals to the crowd because it has no boundaries or restraints, allowing people to live as inclined. The road offers a diversity of options to achieve earthly happiness and to gain “Heaven.” Because the broad path is literally of the world, its travelers find little resistance. The broad way proves comfortable; it appeals to pride and the natural bent toward self-determination and self-will. Those who follow the path believe that a happy afterlife (should one exist) requires no sacrifice, no surrender to the will and purpose of the Master, and absolutely no dependence on holy God. The broad path allows people to carry all their baggage—sins, arrogance, selfishness, and self-righteousness—down the road to destruction. Sadly, separation from God now and forever awaits those who choose it.

In His wisdom God designated acceptance of His Son’s perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection as the toll to the narrow path. Anyone who sincerely confesses with his mouth and life that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart that God raised Him from the dead, experiences His eternal life (Romans 10:9). Through the mystery of grace and the gift of simple faith, God allows those who come to follow the way of the kingdom of Heaven.

Receiving Jesus allows us to experience God’s presence now and look forward to the fullness of His presence in Heaven. As we surrender completely to Him, denying ourselves and taking up our crosses to follow Him, we’ll find the kingdom of God and all of the glory it comprises (see Matthew 16:24, 1 Thessalonians 2:12). As we yield, submit, live selflessly, and love God “with all [our] heart[s] and with all [our] soul[s] and with all [our] mind[s] and with all [our] strength” (Mark 12:30), we acknowledge God’s rightful rule in our lives. And those who do enter through the narrow gate that leads to His life. 

Apply It.

Revisit John 3:14-18. In First John 5:13 John shares that he wrote so that we might know we have eternal life. Are you certain that you do? If so, do you have a burden for those outside of Christ and on the track to hell? Ask God to give you a passion for sharing His words of eternal life to the lost in your circle.


[i] McDevitt, April. “The Feather” Ancient Egypt: The Mythology last updated April 8, 2010.      http://www.egyptianmyths.net/feather.htm (May 8,2010).

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1    

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-five –  The Golden Rule

 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

In a brilliant assertion that practically sums up the teachings of the entire Old Testament, Jesus instructs listeners to treat others in the manner they’d prefer for themselves. Unlike religious teachings outside the Christian faith, which base morality on negative sounding “don’ts,” this principle describes an active, intentional lifestyle of doing for and giving to our fellowman. Believers should treat others with fairness and sacrificial love, constantly asking, “How would I like to be treated in this case?” As we learn to approach one another with this question, we learn the meaning of loving our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 19:19).

Surely the legalistic and unloving Pharisees were shocked by Christ’s radical claim. They spent decades poring over the intricacies of the law, the system of justice, and the concept of equivalent retribution. In claiming that neighborly love encapsulates God’s Old Testament teachings, Christ pointed out that respectful behavior satisfies a significant portion of the Decalogue. If followed, the Golden Rule removes the need for judgment based upon our offenses towards one another. The Apostle Paul explains:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).

Despite its simplicity, no greater foundation for morality exists. Christ founded His kingdom on this code of ethics. Here, then, rests the moral standard by which we must live. As we learn to, “Love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart[s] and with all [our] soul[s] and with all [our] mind[s] and with all [our] strength” we can do no less (see Mark 12:30).

Imagine the peace enjoyed by a society who regularly practices the “do to others as you would have them do to you” principle. Even atheists, agnostics, or those who believe only in situational ethics find it difficult to deny that this standard would benefit all human relationships. Fatalists, postmodernists, and secular humanists, too—those who deny the need for a defined moral code—are hard pressed to claim that they find no appeal in the thought of fair, loving treatment extended to all. (Remember that one friend who claimed not to believe in moral absolutes at all but felt slighted over the injustice of a stolen wallet?) Humanity possesses an innate sense of fairness. This speaks to the divine origin of doing right and gives evidence for a moral deity: the loving God of the Bible.

The Golden Rule commands that we apply Christ’s love-your-neighbor-as-yourself principle to “everything.” Not in some things but in all things we should lovingly do to others that which is good and right. Consideration and fairness should permeate our lives. In response to a God who draws us to His love, embraces us by His love, and showers undeserved grace on our lives, we should model loving grace to others.

The Apostle John said,

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God … This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7, 9-11).

As representatives of our loving King and His kingdom, we must project fairness and goodness in all interactions. We should proactively care for, give to, and respond to others with the same grace, mercy, forgiveness, and generosity that God shows us.

The contrarian lifestyle Jesus taught amplifies His glory, images forth His beauty, and draws those who don’t know true love to the only place it exists. As we serve others in love, we point them to life in Christ. 

Apply It.

Review Jesus’ teaching in Mark 12:28-34. Loving God requires that we love others. How might you put the Golden Rule into practice today? Ask God to help you identify a person or situation in your life that could benefit from the “do unto others” approach. Pray for His guidance in applying this kingdom principle.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1    

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-Four– Ask, Seek, and Find

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11).

The model prayer encourages believers to approach God with this request, “give us today our daily bread”; this indicates that we should pray daily for our daily needs (Matthew 6:11). The teaching aligns perfectly with Christ’s message throughout His sermon: Release anxiety. God provides for His children’s necessities! Jesus’ suggestion that we should ask, seek, and knock, however, encourages us to go beyond a request for the basics. It implies that the Father desires us to seek His provision in overflowing measure.

James 1:17 states, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” But what constitutes a perfect gift? And what types of things does God want us to request? The answer rests in Matthew 6:33: “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” “All these things” refers to the divine blessings given to those who follow God and pursue His kingdom. These gifts include the pleasures of God’s dominion in us, Heavenly comfort, desperately needed mercy for our sins, supernatural satisfaction, relationship and intimacy with our Father, a hopeful eternal reward and, in essence, divine contentment (see the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12).

Unfortunately, some read Matthew 7:7-11 as a license to ask God for anything: luxury car, vacation cottage, yacht, new spouse. But the Lord never intended us to go to the Father with a wish list designed to enhance our comfort and increase our laziness. Our human tendency? To seek after the tangible and temporary. We often approach God with this mentality: Lord, please give me comfort, success, convenience, pleasure, and a pain-free existence. But in doing this, we miss out on the greater spiritual treasure of intimacy with Christ and undervalue the eternal provisions of His kingdom.

The broader context of “ask, seek, and find” centers around authentic spiritual vitality. As we seek true communion with our King and ask Him to let us experience the full power of His kingdom within us, God opens the door to real fellowship with Him, our Creator. This passage, then, could be loosely interpreted: “Ask for God and He will come to you … seek after Him and you will find Him in all of His beauty… knock on the door that is Jesus, and He will let you in to a feast of unimaginable fellowship” (see John 10:7; Revelation 3:20). When we seek after the best and perfect gift, the Lord, we find real treasure.

Our Father desires not to give His children just good things; instead, He wants to give us the best. Even evil people desire to provide good things to their children, but God—holy, caring, and generous Father—desires to shower lasting, life-changing blessings on His children. This should prompt us to ask, “Do I ask God for His best for me? Am I asking, seeking, and knocking after God’s greatest gifts; or am I selfishly seeking after things instead of what God really wants for me?”

Years ago I asked God for a good gift. I desperately wanted a spouse, someone with whom I could share the rest of my life. I constantly pleaded with God to fill this void. At the time, I wasn’t really concerned about the kingdom’s best for me. I allowed my selfishness to keep me from truly receiving what I needed most: a heart fully focused on my Lord and trusting dependence on Him in every aspect of my life. In that season I allowed the pursuit of a life partner to numb me to my own spiritual hunger. James 4:3 teaches, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” God stood capable to provide provision and help for my spiritual void, but He wouldn’t move without my surrender to His will. As long as I approached Him as a genie to meet my pleasures, I missed out on His best and undervalued His ability to thoroughly provide just what I needed.

Our King and Father stands ready to give us spiritual gifts far superior to the “good” gifts we so often seek. When we pursue Him and His righteousness we receive the greatest treasure of all—a fuller and richer experience of God and His kingdom. May the Lord change the desires of our hearts, compelling us to ask, seek, and knock in humility and with the right attitude. May we passionately pursue Him and His kingdom until all of our temporal “wants” fade.

Jesus Christ implores to us replace our fleshly requests with a hunger and thirst for Him. Our patient Father desires for us to seek after Him so that He can open the floodgates of His spiritual bounty.  

Apply It.

Read and internalize Philippians 4:6-9. When praying about life’s difficulties, we will not always get the situation “fixed.” Scripture does, however, promise us God’s peace when we seek Him. In what situation do you need to ask God to give you His peace, joy, and comfort to trust Him no matter how it turns out? Choose to place it in His hands.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1    

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

 Twenty-ThreeSlow to Judge, Quick to Discern

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:1-6).

Having already addressed His followers’ character, influence, righteousness, and aspirations, Christ turns His focus to a believer’s interactions and relationships. Jesus knew that a loving community serves a critical role in helping bring the lost home to God. Further, community drives Christ’s kingdom as His people help one another to reach their full potential in the Lord. Maintaining the health of relationships and extending godly love requires that we overcome the tendency to act judgmentally toward others.

One local church was virtually destroyed by judgmentalism. A small faction targeted one of the church’s outreach programs—the bus ministry—and in the process began to attack the pastor behind it. Through the ministry the pastor sought to reach inner city families with young children who had no other encouragement or transportation to attend church. He hoped the program would allow caring followers of Jesus and the teaching of God’s Word to reach those without access to either. The dissenters, however, accused him of “trying to pad the church’s numbers by shuttling in the dirty, unruly, and disadvantaged.” Their complaints caused such a congregational rift that the ministry was eventually shut down, the scorned pastor resigned in embarrassment and frustration, and the fractured church has yet to fully recover from the subsequent fall-out.

Jesus understands the sinfulness of humanity; He knows that followers will not live perfectly. He also recognizes that we often deal with the sin, poor decisions, flaws, and misbehavior of others. This passage does not prohibit the use of discernment, insight, wisdom, or criticism. Parents, for example, must pass certain judgments on misbehavior in order to discipline. But what Christ condemns in the passage is a condescending, harsh, destructive, and censorious attitude that passes judgment against a brother’s faults, rather real or perceived. The Lord speaks strongly against those who take a “holier than thou” approach.

Most often those guilty of condemning others themselves conceal the biggest issues. Often we find it easy to exaggerate another’s faults while minimizing our own. In doing so, we rest in a false sense of self-righteousness that’s better understood as hypocrisy (see Luke 18:9-14). This builds a major stumbling block in our relationship with others and intimacy with our King. Each person has his or her own strengths and weaknesses. What proves tempting to one may not affect another, but each person fights his own spiritual battles. Although our sins may vary in type, they do not vary in degree: all sin offends God. Therefore when we, despite our best efforts, fail in keeping any of God’s commands and then judge others, we essentially condemn ourselves (see Romans 2:1). We need to compare our own lives to the standards of holy God before we begin nitpicking the shortcomings of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Intentionally finding fault, while ignoring our own problems and spiritual issues, is wrong.

We tend to forget that in God we have a higher judge who fairly judges us all. He provides the ultimate measuring stick, the perfect standard. How differently would we treat fellow Christ-followers and humanity in general if we remembered that we will be measured against the same standards to which we hold others? In First Corinthians 11:31 Paul writes, “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.” Those who forego a hypocritical attitude and choose transparency before a holy and omniscient God will avoid His wrath (see Romans 2:3).

At times we must speak the truth with God’s Word as our guide, correcting misbehavior and helping people to strengthen their walk in the Lord. However, this must be done with grace and love. Paul encourages us to speak the truth but to do it with a heartfelt compassion for the audience (Ephesians 4:15). In every case, our attitudes and motives must prove pleasing to God.

Interestingly, Christ concludes His warning against a judgmental attitude with a call to discernment. This serves to remind believers: don’t turn a blind eye to sin; instead, approach all situations with wisdom. Jesus used two dirty animals—the dog and the pig—to portray those who live such filthy lives that sacred things and the notion of eternal life are wasted on them. Sadly, some who hear the precious gospel of the kingdom and enjoy ample opportunity to receive that truth, steadfastly and belligerently refuse God’s free offer of grace. Perhaps they live in a place of such incurable godlessness that God’s spirit no longer pursues them. Christ’s words remind believers that while we should try to reach all with the good news message, we must act prudently in how we spend our time. When people constantly refuse to receive Jesus’ truth, we should direct our efforts elsewhere. I believe Christ provided an example of this in His interaction with the two criminals crucified beside of Him (see Luke 23:32-43). The one who sneered at him with scathing cynicism, Christ ignored: the one who defended Him with a receptive heart, Christ embraced.

God’s Word clearly instructs us to make disciples of “all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Matthew 7:6 highlights the approach we should use, suggesting that we need not allow the wicked to trample the truth of Jesus and His grace. Therefore, after doing our best to exalt the King and His kingdom, we should release mean and unresponsive types to the hands of sovereign God. We must keep them in our prayers, but we should not expend all our energies on them.

This concept is reinforced in Jesus’ call for His disciples to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Jesus knew that He sent the apostles into a hostile environment that required both discernment and a peaceful, purposeful spirit that sought to point a lost world to His beauty. Since we too are sent as messengers of the kingdom’s good news, we must go with His wisdom, daily discerning without being judgmental.

Apply It.

Paul was keenly cognizant of his own sin (read Romans 7:19-25). Identify the “specks” in your own eye. Ask God to reveal things that need to be surrendered to Him. Then, as Paul did in Romans 7:25, thank the Lord for the forgiveness that comes only through Christ Jesus.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1    

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

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