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“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 1:11-13).

It was a nervous plane ride to Texas for some. Not for me; I’m used to traveling by air. But for the man seated in the same row, with an empty seat in between, it was uncomfortable and unfamiliar. “I haven’t flown since 9/11,” he said. In my fatigue, all I could babble was, “things have changed, haven’t they?” He asked me a couple of questions before disappearing into an uneasy stare towards the skies from his window seat. I disappeared into my Christian book and was all too happy to have no further dialogue. Though he was pleasant enough, I wanted to lose myself in the lofty thoughts of great theologians and apologists. Shame on me…God had a different plan.

Given my small bladder and that a friend was going to pick me up immediately upon landing, I decided to go to the restroom (as if one can get any rest in the bathroom of a commercial airliner). I laid down my book on the empty middle seat and made the trek to the back of the plane. With the flight nearing its conclusion, I didn’t expect any more conversation. But I was very wrong. The blue-collar gentleman next to me was about to startle me from my missional slumber and into my Great Commission mandate.

“Are you are Christian man?” he inquired. “Well, yes, I certainly am…are you?” He paused and mumbled, “I think so.” I was unprepared for this turn of events (that’s the norm for me) and tried to gather myself. But I failed to come up with a coherent response. So I quickly asked God for wisdom and guidance. Soon my thoughts began to organize and I was empowered to speak again. But I could only think to say, “God wants you to know for sure. In the Bible, John wrote a letter for this very purpose.” Even though silence ensued, at this point I knew that I had nothing to do with my retort – the Holy Spirit had taken control.

Then came a flood of questions and answers. He had been baptized, gone to church, left the church, had faith, lost his faith, had hope and now doubted. He believed he was a good man but knew, deep in his being, that wasn’t enough. He understood that it was about a relationship with Jesus and not about religious dogma and practice. He knew the Bible held the key to understanding and knowing Who held his future. He comprehended that he was a sinner, that he must cast himself upon God’s mercy, and surrender all of who he is to all of Who God is. All I could then do was to ask if I could pray for him. He  appreciatively said yes.

Suddenly I was reminded of Jesus’ encounter with the religious of his day:

“One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”“This is the most important,” Jesus answered: Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. “The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Then the scribe said to Him, “You are right, Teacher! You have correctly said that He is One, and there is no one else except Him. And to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more [important] than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:28-34).

Perry is not far from the kingdom of God. How many teeter on the edge of hope and assurance? Many don’t embrace the simple yet profound words of the Apostle John: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” And we most fully know that we know that we have Jesus’ life, His new life, His eternal life when we “Love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart, with all [our] soul, with all [our] mind, and with all [our] strength. [And we] love [our] neighbor as [our self].”

I am praying for Perry. I pray that Perry knows that he knows that Jesus is His and Jesus has him – now and forever. And I pray that one day I will see him in Heaven and we can talk about how wonderful Jesus is…and that bumpy flight between Nashville and Dallas. The one, I hope, where he began his pilgrimage from doubt to assurance. When he affirmed in his head and his heart that he loved Jesus above all else – with all that he is, with all that he has, based upon all of Christ’s worth.

So, what about you?

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:31-36). 

One of the most glorious truths that a Christ-follower can cling to is that we are free. Jesus said, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Paul reiterated the importance of our freedom in Christ on numerous occasions but devoted nearly an entire letter, Galatians, to this truth. That epistle is punctuated with the proclamation of 5:1: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” So, concentrating on Jesus’ comments in John 8 and Peter’s thoughts in 1 Peter 1:18-23, let’s explore 3 critical aspects of the freedom found in our faith in Jesus. 

First, what are we freed from? In 1 Peter 1:18 Peter says it is the empty (or futile) way of our former life. Due to our inherited sin nature that was “handed down to [us] from [our] forefathers,” we were once enslaved to sin. We were formerly held captive by the god of this world and unable to break free from the allure, pleasure, and bondage of our sinful rebellion against God. In our unregenerate state, we were so imprisoned by our wicked ways that the Bible describes us as blind and dead. Paul summarizes this, and alludes to our only hope for freedom, when he stated, “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:22).  

Second, what are we freed by? When you think of someone being kidnapped and taken hostage (think of one of your favorite police or detective shows), it is typical for the suspects to demand a ransom for the victim’s freedom. They usually want cash…and loads of it. But, in God’s economy, it takes more than perishable things (and money, by the way, IS perishable) like silver and gold to ransom us from our slavery to sin. It takes the ultimate currency; the shed blood of Jesus. As Peter clearly states, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or 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). We also know that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin” (Hebrews 9:22). So Christ’s blood is the only payment possible by which both our forgiveness and freedom could be purchased. His sacrifice has ransomed us and therefore He is our Redeemer. 

Thirdly, what are we freed for? Looking at 1 Peter 1:22-23, we see that we are not freed to go our own way…that’s what we are freed from: “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” A. W. Pink said it this way: “Spiritual freedom is not a license to do as I please, but emancipation from the bondage of sin and Satan that I may do as I ought.”  

I think a story might be helpful here. Although probably more fiction than fact, this legend has often been told about Abraham Lincoln: 

One day when passing the slave auction, Lincoln noticed a young black girl about to be sold. Moved by her circumstance, we are told he bid for her and won. Immediately he told the shocked adolescent that she was free. She quickly began to ask questions. 

“What does that mean?”

“It means you are free,” Lincoln replied.

“Can I now say whatever I want to say?”

“Yes, you can say whatever you want to say.”

“Can I be whatever I want to be?”

“Yes, you can be whatever you want to be.”

“Can I go wherever I want to go?

“Yes, you can.” 

The girl, overcome with emotion, paused and finally said, “Then I will go with you.” 

You see, Jesus has ransomed us and freed us from the bondage of sin so that we can be with Him and be like Him. That’s what the Apostle is telling us in 1 Peter 1:18-23. We are not freed to go on our own way. We are freed to go His way and go with the power He now gives us to overcome that which once enslaved us. When Jesus once asked, after a particularly difficult teaching, if His disciples were going to desert Him along with so many others, Peter’s response says it all: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69). 

Peter knew what we must know. Our Savior has freed us from sin so that we might follow Him.

Today (12/16/11) the passing of Christopher Hitchens, at the age of 62 from throat cancer, was announced. A famous (or infamous) apologist for the atheistic faith, his voluminous writings included the best-selling antitheist (which is how he categorized himself, not as an agnostic or an atheist) manifesto entitled God is Not Great. Whether you celebrated or cursed Hitchens, were an advocate or an adversary, this is significant. No doubt, he fomented strong emotions and opinions on both sides of the God debate, as well as contemporary religion, philosophy, politics, ethics, and society. There is much that can be said in disrespect towards Hitchens’ beliefs, elitism, condescension, and vitriolic demeanor. His legacy is that he did much to resurrect and popularize historic atheistic ideologies. Although not really new, his version of the Enlightenment was dubbed “The New Atheism.”

However, as much as we would disagree with him, followers of Jesus have no grounds to be a “Hitchens-hater.”  For he was a man with an eternal destiny, a person, like the rest of us, who desperately needed Jesus. And, despite his antagonism towards God and religion in general, there is much we can learn from him.  Hitch, as he was often called, passionately proclaimed his faith, his faith that there is no God. He vigilantly defended what he believed in and stood by it until the end. He was bold in promoting the belief system he based his life on, his worldview. Although I believe Hitchens was dreadfully wrong and disastrously deceived, we all could use more of his fervor and valor. Oh, that we would all trumpet our faith just as publicly and intensely. And do so until we have breathed our last.

Today, tragically, many professing Christ-followers will cheer his death and demise. For many so-called believers, it is difficult to estimate the total amount of collateral damage he has done to Christianity. I believe, however, the advance of God’s kingdom is unhindered no matter the efforts of Hitchens and his antitheistic counterparts. As Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). God has not moved and His plan has not changed. He still sits on the throne of the universe and does as He pleases, despite the unbelievers’ rants to the contrary.

Nevertheless, let’s look at Hitchens’ life (and death) as depicted in a couple of quotes about him found in news articles concerning his passing:

The Associated Press’ Hillel Italie:

Eloquent and intemperate, bawdy and urbane, he was an acknowledged contrarian and contradiction—half-Christian, half-Jewish and fully non-believing; a native of England who settled in America…He was a militant humanist who believed in pluralism and racial justice and freedom of speech, big cities and fine art and the willingness to stand the consequences.

ABC News’ Joel Siegel:

Hitchens became the public face of atheism. Critics assumed his cancer diagnosis, in 2010, would lead Hitchens to relent and embrace God. But he remained a proud non-believer to the very end, as he made clear in an early October 2011 speech at the annual Atheist Alliance of America convention in Houston, as he accepted the Freethinker of the Year Award. His body gaunt from the ravages of cancer, Hitchens said, “We have the same job we always had: to say that there are no final solutions; there is no absolute truth; there is no supreme leader; there is no totalitarian solution that says if you would just give up your freedom of inquiry, if you would just give up, if you would simply abandon your critical faculties, the world of idiotic bliss can be yours.”

How does that strike you? For me, it makes me both sad and sober. But why?

Sad because Christopher Hitchens, it seems, died without knowing the hope and joy found only in Jesus. I’m heartbroken that so many, maybe not God-haters in the same sense, are drifting off into an eternity that is as real as this life. And they are doing so without embracing Christ as their Redeemer and King.

Sober because death is a reminder we live in a fallen world filled with fallen people. None of us can escape eternity. Therefore I pray we are prepared for it. The news of Hitchens’ death causes my lighthearted mood to turn intensely serious because “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27).

Christopher Hitchens is now dead and has faced his Maker. This is sad. We too will do the same. This is sobering.

Are we ready? Have we surrendered to Jesus and found new and eternal life in Christ, the One who is ” the way, the truth and the life?” These, not our opinions about Hitchens or his legacy, are the real questions for today.

*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 –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

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 –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

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 –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

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. (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 –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

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 –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

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-one – Trusting our King

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?” (Mathew 6:25-31).

In opening verse 25 with the word “therefore,” Jesus points listeners back to the preceding section of His sermon. This indicates an important truth: as believers reject the pursuit of earthly treasure and learn to trust in Him for physical needs, they position themselves to live free from worry.

Those in Christ’s original audience did not enjoy the benefits of 401K plans, health care packages, and paid vacations. While the very wealthy among them might have stored grain or hoarded coins, many had to wonder whether or not they would secure daily food or drink. Without the social and government entitlement programs to which we are accustomed, they knew charity as their only safeguard. Christ and His contemporaries often learned to live day-to-day (see Matthew 8:20). In contrast, the typical American believer has an abundance of financial resources and securities, and most live in comparative luxury and comfort. With such blessing, should we not be more aware of God as our ultimate Provider and enjoy an even greater trust in Him than the early Christians?

In a touching analogy that probably directed eyes to the birds and flowers native to Christ’s open-air sanctuary, Jesus explains that He cares for nature. Throughout His ministry, Jesus proves cognizant and empathic towards His children’s struggle over the necessities. Food, clothing, and shelter represent real needs. As Christ points out God’s care for creation in general, He helps people understand His care for His chosen people. While plants and birds neither enjoy relationship with Him nor share the wisdom afforded to humans, God provides for them. The condensed message of Matthew 6:25-31? “Do not worry, for I am a loving, good, and capable Father who provides for you. If I look after lesser creatures, surely I will take care of you!”

When we surrender to Christ as our great King, we need not worry at all. Cares and concerns typify the state of fallen humanity, but we serve an omnipotent God who desires us to live free from the tendency. In truth, worry proves incompatible with faithful kingdom living. Paralyzing worry requires one of three ingredients: too much self-focus, too little faith, or a denial of Christ’s role as King and provider. Should worry plague a believer, he or she should immediately ask: Has my vision of God grown so small that I do not perceive Him as loving or good or capable? Kingdom living requires that we see Him as all of that and more!

Several years ago I faced a potential downsizing at work, and I melted into an emotional wreck. My dear mother prayed endlessly that the worry and stress of my job would lift. God answered her prayer: I was laid off! My worry only intensified. Always anxious over the financial ramifications of unemployment, I often failed to trust God. Despite my faithless fretting, God providentially (and miraculously) provided me with a better opportunity within the space of days. I have remained in that position over a decade. God used the whole situation to confirm in me that all things rest in His capable hands. My anxiety was a self-defeating lack of confidence in my Lord.

We must remember that the great provider concerns Himself with our emotional needs as well as the basics. Although He commands us to not worry, He knows that life brings trials, tribulations, and troubles to even His most steadfast followers. “Come to me,” Christ encourages all who are weary and burdened by life, “I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). No one walks alone who puts his trust in God.

Christ never says, “I will solve all of your problems.” While providing for our necessities and easing the burden on our hearts, He does not remove us from all of life’s challenges. The Lord acts as a perfect parent: His judgments are always fair, His intervention always timely, and His approach never overbearing. In every case, believers can confidently “Cast all [their] anxiety on him because he cares for [them]” (1 Peter 5:7). God stands not as the panacea for all of this life’s physical, emotional, and financial ills; instead, He knows and cares for us in the way He sees fit. He always chooses the best approach. In every case, the Lord meets our needs in a way that honors and glorifies Him and His kingdom. We must demonstrate faith in Him, trusting that He will always provide for us what He deems best. As we do, the worry tendency diminishes.

In a practical application, worry makes little sense; it changes nothing. Philippians 4:6-8 states:

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (Philippians 4:6-8).

I’ve always loved the advice Paul shares in this passage. Truly, focusing on the goodness of God leads to peace and lessens anxiety. As we keep our eyes on Him, we remember that God alone stands as our beneficent provider in all things. We can’t avoid stressful situations, but we can trust in the Lord to see us through them.  

Apply It.

Throughout the Old Testament God often reminded the Israelites of His many provisions for them. Use a concordance or Bible search tool to find an example.

When and where has God intervened and provided for you (see Psalm 103:2)? Ask God to remind you of His past provisions so that your faith and reliance on Him will grow.

*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 –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

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

Nineteen – Kingdom Prayer

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:”

‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

 your kingdom come,

your will be done

 on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:7-15).

Countless volumes address the deep significance of the model prayer Christ shared in Matthew 6. The passage provides incredible insights into God’s character and the way He desires Christ-followers relate to Him. Perhaps more than any other section of Scripture, this passage demonstrates that our dialogue with God stands as an intimate yet reverential kingdom-centered privilege. It exalts God’s plans, purposes, and will while acknowledging our dependence on Him for daily provision and practical holiness. This simple prayer resoundingly captures the astonishing essence of the grace-wrought relationship we have with our Father. Unfortunately, many people still view the passage as a script meant for recitation. Thousands know it by memory, but few understand its depth.

I love that Jesus preceded the model prayer with advice on what not to do. He begins by acknowledging that even the godless pray, but their prayers are insincere and frivolous. The term translated as “babbling” here can also be understood as “empty repetitions.”[i] According to Jesus, uttering meaningless words and failing to approach God in focused sincerity ignores the inward realities necessary to truly dialogue with our King. Reciting clichés without backing them in heart-induced authenticity fails to honor the Lord.

My friend Robin beautifully summarized what many Christ-followers experience in their prayer life. She saw her prayers as sign-posts in her spiritual journey: “When I was just born-again I struggled to say anything that made sense. After a few years of being in church, I learned to use a bunch of tired, empty phrases that held little meaning to me. You know—the kind of stuff you mindlessly and hurriedly spit out before a meal? But as I grew in the Lord I began to experience the awesomeness of His presence during my quiet time. Then my words took on heart-felt meaning, and I found myself having a real, dynamic, life-transforming conversation with my Lord.”

At the heart of Jesus’ dialogue with His Father, come these words: “hallowed (revered) be your name.” God’s ultimate glorification defines the goal of every prayer. Magnifying the Heavenly Father and approaching Him with the intent to follow His plans and purposes is primary. Our King is transcendent, majestic, and separated from His creation. Even Christ—His own Son and the exact representation of His glory—approached God with awe and the humility of a servant, recognizing His magnitude. This posture stands in sharp contrast to the man-centered “vain repetitions” the pagans use in calling out to the divine.

Amazingly, Christ encouraged listeners to approach God as “Father.” In doing this He allows a glimpse into the supernatural grace that restores our fellowship with God; in spite of our failings, we are allowed to call Him “our Father.” The Apostle Paul used the term Abba, meaning “Daddy,” to capture the beautiful intimacy that we can have with our King (Romans 8:15). Authentic kingdom prayer shows the personal nature of our sovereign Lord without diminishing His deity. God, great and glorious, provides omniscient care for the needs of His royal children.

The centrality of God’s kingdom provides the basis for Christ’s prayer. We should offer all of our praise and everything we ask of Him with this in mind. We must constantly acknowledge His dominion over creation, allowing our prayers to reflect passion for the on-going revelation of His reign. Our hearts should surge with the attitude, “Your kingdom come, your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven”! As we approach the Lord with this mentality, we stop thinking about ourselves and begin to focus on Him. This allows us to find peace and confidence in God’s sovereignty and affirms within us that He will capably provide what we most need.

Our Lord acknowledges God’s promise of physical provision in this life for His children as a general principle (see Matthew 6:25-31). Interesting that He advises us to pray for things that God has already promised to provide (i.e. our daily bread) and about needs that He is already aware of (Matthew 6:8). Provider of all that we have, God imparts the necessities and often blesses us with nonessentials. By praying for what He has already promised to provide (and often times already gives) we humbly recognize Him as the only source of all good things (James 1:17). We recall God’s greatness as our Provider and recognize His caring and compassion in our lives.

The prayer clearly reveals that Jesus desires His disciples pursue righteousness. Holy living is predicated on our understanding of His gracious forgiveness. When we grasp the beautiful forgiveness Christ offers us, we will reveal that understanding by adopting lifestyles of forgiveness. In order to mirror God’s purity, we must passionately pursue godliness, an inherent attribute of His chosen people. Recognizing God’s holiness and falling in love with Him sparks within us a passion for purity. As we pursue blamelessness and extend forgiveness, we reflect Him.

Studying the model prayer always prompts my heart: Do my prayers come across as vain, selfish, empty, or shallow? Or does my communication with Him project an intimacy that compels me to glorify Him? Do I plead for His kingdom’s expansion? Do I exhibit a heart grateful for His underserved provision? How often do I yearn for a holy life that reflects His absolute purity? Jesus prompted us to pray kingdom-centered prayers to an incomprehensibly supreme King. Only when I give God the focus, reverence, and surrender He requires do my prayers match with the principles Christ laid out in Matthew.  

Apply It.

Jesus encourages us to find, as He did, a place of solitude to pray (see Mark 1:35; Matthew 6:6). Considering life’s busyness and distraction, we must consistently find a place and time that allows us intimate communion with our Father without interruption. Does this reflect your practice? Ask God to give you the discipline to daily fellowship with Him in a place of quiet.

[i] Robertson, A. T.  Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament (Broadman Press, 1960).

*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 –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

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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