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“…and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?…But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:26, 30-33). 

God, some have said, is wholly “other.” We know, by definition, God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. When we attempt to ruminate on His greatness we can feel infinitely small (and we are) and seemingly insignificant (but we aren’t). He can’t be totally and accurately defined but we describe Him as glorious, sovereign, transcendent, majestic, incomprehensible, and almighty, among many other lofty adjectives. And God is all of this and more!  But it is one particular aspect of this “more” that I’d like to drill down on: God is also personal. He is our perfect Father! 

All of our physical fathers are imperfect, many are disengaged, and some are downright negligent and mean. And because of this we live in a world of hurting people whose view of God as Father has been skewed by their experience with their earthly fathers. We tend to assign to God the same character and personality traits of our human fathers. If our dad was absent then we think God is also. If our earthly father was angry, God is seen as a condemning and hostile (and He can be to those who aren’t His own). If dad was loving, we project the Creator as kind and beneficent (and He is). Generous, then generous. Cruel, then cruel. Distant, then distant…and so forth. Praise God, I can say nothing negative about my Christ-like earthly father but, given the dysfunctional and disintegrating nature of the contemporary Western family, many don’t feel this way. It’s no wonder that the idea of God is unappealing and many have been prompted to avoid, rebel against, or reject such a notion.  

But we have good news! For all whose view of God is tainted by your physical father’s failures, please know God can be very personal, even more intimate than our own family. He has initiated a familial relationship with us that is most amazing. God can be, as Jesus often said, “your Father.” Yes, most recognize that the Scripture portrays Jesus as the Son of God but what about us? Are we too unlovely and insignificant, given the way we may have been treated by our own fathers, for the ruler of the universe to be that perfect Father to us, to love us in a way that reminds us of the way He loves Jesus? Could the Almighty claim us as His own children? Despite what we may feel, the fact is that God’s Word says He can and does. Again, what great news! 

As a matter of fact, we can be adopted into God’s family, become one of His children, share in Christ’s inheritance, and be glorified with Jesus, the very son of God! As you read the words of Paul, notice the terms of endearment “Daddy,” “children,” heirs,” and “son.” And don’t overlook the promises and provisions made to those that experience God’s adoption and familial affection: 

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “[Daddy]! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:15-17). 

So what’s the catch? For us to experience this glorious reality we must do 2 things – receive (turn from ourselves and our ways and turn to Him) and believe in (put our total trust in) the person and work of Christ. As the Apostle John said, “But to all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).  

Do you feel disappointed and disenfranchised with your earthy family? As scarring and sad as that is, God says you can join His eternal family. You can call Him “Daddy.” You can become joint heirs with Jesus. You can personally know a Heavenly patriarch who will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). You can find comfort and security in an incomprehensibly loving Father who will receive you back with seeking arms, an embrace, and a sumptuous feast when you return to Him from your wanderings (Luke 15:11-24). You can find in Him a love that is eternal and filled with hope (Romans 8:31-39). 

So my plea is simple: Despite the tragedy of families that fail us, don’t let that keep you from your perfect Heavenly Father. The God of the universe beckons you to call Him “Daddy” and receive His unequaled paternal provision. Receive and believe in Jesus and be “born again” into the family of the Father of the heavenly lights, “from whom every good and perfect gift is [received and] who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17, NIV).

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This an excerpt from my book “Captivated by Christ: Focusing on Him.” It can be found on virtually any on-line bookstore in both hardcopy and digital formats.

First Peter 1:3 exclaims, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” In other words, Christ’s all-powerful and glorious resurrection gives us more than a future hope; it gives us a living hope. The Lord’s death and resurrection created for us a transforming power that goes beyond His ability to raise us from the physical grave. It provided a power that can energize and give purpose to daily life.

Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him” (Philippians 3:10). In saying this Paul affirmed the predictive words of Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25). What Paul is saying is that the resurrection empowers us to experience supernatural living now as well as eternal life in the future. In other words, the reality of physical death being overcome by eternal life through that all-important resurrection victory has real spiritual connotations for living.

Paul explains further: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8). What did he primarily lose? Himself! What did he gain? Christ and the power of His resurrection! That’s why he tells the Roman Christians, “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection” (Romans 6:5). This is a more important part of the Gospel than many give it credit for.

You see, in order to experience the power of the resurrection we must die physically and spiritually, literally and figuratively, now and in the future. You can’t be physically resurrected unless you physically die and you can’t live in spiritual resurrection power unless you die spiritually to self. This involves transitioning from our old self-oriented person to one whose focus is now on Christ. Then, through faith, we experience His resurrection power and presence. Paul elaborates: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

You see, when Paul talks about many of his travails, he considers the resurrection the root of his endurance and hope. The resurrection does give Paul hope that he’ll live with Christ in Heaven, but additionally it gives meaning to his life. In First Corinthians 15:30-32, as he connects his dying to self with the power of the resurrection, Paul says, “And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” In short, he has gained everything in Christ because of the fact of the resurrection. Without it, life is worthless.

Understand that without the power of the resurrection, our living (and dying) is in vain. First Corinthians 15:14, 17 clarify: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” Our lives in Christ become meaningful and powerful only when we see the glorious ramifications of the resurrection. That happens only when we “die to self” and all things become secondary to His will and glory. This means that we forsake self-determination and self-absorption. Instead we live in the power of His presence and are guided by His purposes instead of our own (Philippians 3:7-8).

My prayer is that God will give me the desire to daily die so that I might live in Him and the power of His resurrection. After all, “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (1 Corinthians 15: 36).


But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:14-16).

Reason Rally

U.S. News – Westboro church pastor’s son to face off against dad’s picketers at atheist rally

Today, March 24th, the Reason Rally will take place in Washington, DC. I would urge you to click the first link and study this site, examine this rally’s purpose, and make special note of the speakers at this event. It is quite obvious that nontheism has become quite chic and en vogue.

Here are some excerpts from the site I would like to highlight and comment on:

When will the Rally be held?
On March 24, 2012, from 10:00AM – 6:00PM at the National Mall, nontheists from all corners of the nation will descend on Washington, D.C. en masse to deliver the good news: “We’re huge, we’re everywhere, and we’re growing.”

Why are we doing this?
Across America, in every city, every town, and every school, secularism is on the rise. Whether people call themselves atheists, agnostics, secular Humanists, or any of the other terms used to describe their god-free lifestyle, secularism is coming out of the closet. According to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (PDF), the percentage of people with no religious affiliation grew in all fifty states.
The purpose of this particular rally will be to advance secularism (in the broadest sense of the word) in society.

  • Let’s be clear – in America, these folks have every right to gather and exercise both freedom of speech and religion. Despite their objections, I do believe this is a religion – it is a belief system of disbelief. And I support these constitutional rights as the original authors intended them. Actually, I’m thankful that, generally speaking, we are allowed to voice our beliefs without fear of retribution, even though it seems orthodox Christianity is now more often the target of censorship than other belief systems.
  • Why do they have to come out of the closet? Actually, I thought they already were – they have had several NYT best-sellers in recent years and the news is flooded with stories about an unbeliever joining forces with the ACLU to suppress religious expression. Really, what are they hiding from? They are protected by the laws of the land and, however wrong I think they are, I support their right to believe in disbelief and live their faith openly. And, after all, it is faith; as they can no more scientifically disprove God than we can prove Him.
  • They use the phrase “the good news.” How ironic they have hijacked terminology that is most identified with the Gospel (good news) of Jesus. There is no need to elaborate on their definition of good news being vastly different from God’s. I’m terribly chagrined that our culture is embracing a worldview of meaningless living and hopeless dying, not that the Gospel has lost its power, but because on some level the church has failed to live out the principles of God’s kingdom (see Matthew 5-7).
  • My view is that much of the attraction to nontheism is actually an aversion to religion. When wounded and burned by the church, nontheism is the logical place for flight. It’s not that it is an attractive belief system but many adherents so detest Christianity that they find some sort of solace in being as far away from that culture as possible. In some cases, Christians and institutional religion bear some responsibility for the violent reaction of some who have fled to a godless ideology. If we call ourselves His followers, failing to pursue a life and love like Jesus is wrong.
  • As Christ-followers we should know what we believe, why we believe it, and never compromise on Scripture as our primary source of our faith. Although reason and science can and often confirm our worldview, we must always be ready to give an answer for our hope. Are we able to defend our faith in light of the growing opposition to it? We must be able to because we are command to. We must boldly proclaim the truth of God’s Word, the hope-filled message of the cross of Calvary, and the person and work of Jesus.
  • Sometimes unbelievers can’t hear us over the hate (that’s the reason for the second link). Yes, I know much of what they call hate is really the truth running against the grain of their self-destructive flesh, pride, and self-determination (it does the same to me). But sometimes it is hate, or at least hateful. We are to clearly enunciate truth but speak it through tears of love and sadness over their rejection of God as He is revealed in Jesus.

I’ve got a crazy (and probably unpopular) idea. Let’s pursue friendship with a nontheist. And let’s start today. I’m not saying we condone what they believe but let’s reach across the philosophical chasm and treat them with respect and dignity. Let’s love them like Jesus would so that we might be able, empowered by the wisdom and Word of God, to share our reason for believing and living to glorify God. And then let’s keep loving them with undeniable joy while the Holy Spirit does His work.


“So remember your Creator in the days of your youth: Before the days of adversity come, and the years approach when you will say, “I have no delight in them”; before the sun and the light are darkened, and the moon and the stars, and the clouds return after the rain; on the day when the guardians of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, the women who grind cease because they are few, and the ones who watch through the windows see dimly, and the doors at the street are shut while the sound of the mill fades; when one rises at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song grow faint. Also, they are afraid of heights and dangers on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper loses its spring, and the caper berry has no effect; for man is headed to his eternal home, and mourners will walk around in the street; before the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the jar is shattered at the spring, and the wheel is broken into the well; and the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Everything is futile” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, HCSB). 

The night was designed to be a celebration and it was…but one with a sobering and ironic twist. Several on Rebekah’s side of the family had gathered at the house of her uncle and aunt who live in an affluent neighborhood in southwest Virginia. The gathering and dinner were in honor of our niece and her baptism. We were celebrating the public profession of her new and eternal life in Christ. And that is truly something worth rejoicing over.  

But soon after dinner the festive mood turned somber and reflective. Police cars and an ambulance, with sirens and lights blazing, arrived at a neighbor’s house, the property adjacent to our site. Everyone soon began to discuss what might be the problem. Between incoming phone calls and Uncle Bill’s neighborhood research, the details began to emerge. The man who lived in this large house, alone with his wife and pets, had taken his life by gunshot. The authorities found him in his blood-stained bedroom along with the weapon. In his 70’s, with no clear reason for his tragic and terminal decision, he was dead. 

Soon our speculation became rampant. Was he terminally ill? Did they have marital problems? Did an argument escalate and the eccentric wife actually pull the trigger? Rumor said that he had an alcohol problem…was this a contributing factor? Could the frightening rise of K2 and “Bath Salts” synthetic drugs in the area have been an influence? “My gracious,” Aunt Jane blurted out, “I just saw him walking the dog a few hours ago.” Although complete conjecture, everyone had become a sleuth is pursuit of the cause of this morbid event. No more spiritual or insightful than anyone else,  I said nothing. All I could think was, ‘This man is dead. And his soul has now transitioned to another place, good or bad. His opportunity to follow Jesus is gone.’ 

Some have said that suicide is the ultimate selfish act. I know from my own studies and ministry that those who take their own lives really don’t want to die; they just don’t want to live anymore and death is the lesser of the 2 painful evils. So they look outward and turn inward and don’t find enough reasons to keep on living. Could anything be much sadder? Uncle Bill made a soul-pricking comment: “This is such a commentary on the spiritual void that is so common in our world.” So true. Pushing away our suppositions about the circumstances surrounding this depressing event, there was something vital missing in this man’s life. Something so critical that what (Who) was absent created a hole so big that death appeared to be his best recourse. 

This is what the Teacher of Ecclesiastes is talking about in our focal passage. Life is hard and it gets harder. If we continue to live we will eventually bleed, we will inevitably have pain. Without God our existence is futile and we find no real satisfaction in our living or our dying. This principle is inescapable. Apart from Christ life can become unbearable – the spiritual void growing ever larger until we see zero joy and hope in our being…just emptiness. We may not pull the trigger that ends our earthly reality but we will just go through the motions, living out our days devoid of Who really matters. But that’s not life – that’s just ambulatory death.

But in Christ we can have new and eternal life. Through surrendered faith we can find our God-glorifying purpose by taking our brokenness to the cross and laying it at the feet of an infinitely life-giving, soul-satisfying, joy-producing Savior. And, if you haven’t already, I pray you do so before you become seemingly too hard or too tired or too beaten down by life to turn to the only One who can give you hope. 

So it behooves us all to be reminded of Ecclesiastes’ final axiom: “When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this [is for] all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil” (12:13-14). Only by complete trust in the blood-soaked sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary – where He bore God’s righteous wrath – can we expect to receive God’s mercy and grace and all the immeasurable, eternal blessings that go with it…abundant life now and life everlasting.


“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith…” (1 Timothy 4:1).

“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the falling away comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

As disheartening and shocking as it is, this USAToday article is a must read. It paints a very tragic portrait of the secularization and “lostness” of the country in which we live. And it breaks my heart. Read for yourself:

For many, ‘Losing My Religion’ isn’t just a song: It’s life

This piece reveals a vivid and ugly picture of the practical atheism that is pandemic in America. These unbelievers are euphemistically labeled as “apatheists.” The Bible would describe them asseparated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of [God] and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). 

Some snippets and statistics from this troublesome article:

“The real dirty little secret of religiosity in America is that there are so many people for whom spiritual interest, thinking about ultimate questions, is minimal,” says Mark Silk, professor of religion and public life at Trinity College, Hartford, Conn.

“We live in a society today where it is acceptable now to say that they have no spiritual curiosity. At almost any other time in history, that would have been unacceptable,” Budde says.

“This is a disaster for Christians, says Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, “If you’re not worried about heaven, you won’t notice or care if Jesus is essential your salvation. You’re not thinking about any consequences,” McConnell says.  

Here are some appalling numbers, figures that should launch us into an impassioned crusade of Gospel proclamation and disciple-making that Jesus mandated in His Great Commission:

•44% told the 2011 Baylor University Religion Survey they spend no time seeking “eternal wisdom,” and 19% said “it’s useless to search for meaning.”

•46% told a 2011 survey by Nashville-based evangelical research agency, LifeWay Research, they never wonder whether they will go to heaven.

•28% told LifeWay “it’s not a major priority in my life to find my deeper purpose.” And 18% scoffed that God has a purpose or plan for everyone. 

To further accentuate the dire nature of these numbers, hidden beneath these statistics are those who believe in God (or religion) but not the God of the Bible. These include various religions and belief systems outside of and even opposed to traditional Christianity (Islam, Buddhism, etc.).

Do we see these folks? Clearly they are all around us. We can find them where we work, at the store, in our neighborhood, and maybe even at church. USAToday makes it crystal clear they can be found everywhere in our culture. But are we really looking for them? This should serve as a siren’s warning and a powerful motivator to all who claim the name of Christ and profess to follow Him. Do we care? Do we care about those who don’t care, those who give no thought to the things of God and eternal matters? Do we love Him, and them, enough to tell them the truth and share with them the hope and joy found only in Jesus? I pray we do. As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38). And folks, that means us!

As uncomfortable as it is, I must close with a warning from the Apostle Peter. Why? Because it is the Word of God. It is true and must be said. Take heed, God has spoken and it will come to pass. Therefore, if you aren’t trusting and resting in the assurance and hope that is found only in surrendering by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, I plead with you to look at Him and look to Him, admit your sin, and cast yourself upon His mercy.

“…by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:1-8).


*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-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!


“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should   but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

*This is a continuation of a earlier post entitled, John 3:16: What Does “Believe” Mean?

In our Life Group we were studying this verse – probably the best known in all of Scripture. The study breaks down this verse by its critical components: God loved, God gave, we believe, and we live. If this sounds familiar, it is based upon Max Lucado’s 3:16: Numbers of Hope guide. Although admittedly not a huge Lucado fan, the lessons have stimulated some lively discussion. And rightly so: this verse is pregnant with meaning often overlooked because we are so familiar with it. The 4th session turned to the word “believe” found in this powerful text.

Earlier we had defined “believe in Him” as a surrendered trust in Jesus as our only hope for salvation (eternal life) and a “faith” that suggests following after Christ with a transformed life that includes the desire to be obedient to Him as Lord. In our time together the question was raised: “This verse says that we have everlasting life if we “believe in Him. If so, does it make any difference what we believe as long as who we believe in Jesus?” In other words, is believing in Jesus all there is to saving faith or does what we believe about Him really matter? Or, for clarification: is the most important thing “who” or “what” we believe in? Good question! What do you think?

Karolyn spoke first and quickly said, “You can’t separate the two.” Exactly! History has been filled with those who claim to trust in Christ for salvation (or a form of it) but denied the essence of who He is. Early in the church, the Gnostics come to mind. Today, there many cults, sects, and religions which suggest that faith in Jesus can be central to redemption but cast Him in a lesser light than Scripture itself does. Pluralism does this by saying, Jesus is one way to heaven, but not the only way.” This, of course, discounts Christ’s own claim that He was the only way, truth, and life by which one can know God (John 14:6).

What about believing in a Jesus who wasn’t sinless, really didn’t perform miracles, or was never physically raised from the dead? The latter of these was the constant drumbeat of the early church’s preaching and foundational to true faith. What about a Jesus that wasn’t really God and isn’t the only hope for fallen humanity? Or what about a Messiah who never will return again to rule and reign as He promised?

The core Christian belief is that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, sinful humans can be reconciled to God and thereby are offered salvation and the
promise of eternal life. Essential beliefs held by Christ-followers include his divinity, humanity, and earthly life as depicted in Scripture. Adhering to authentic Christian faith requires a belief that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah. As one theologian has said, “The whole of Christian teaching would fall to the ground if it were the case that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were not events in real history, but stories told to illustrate truths which are valid apart from these happenings.” Also, true disciples of Christ believe that Jesus was both human and the Son of God: God in human form—sharing human frailties and temptations but never acting on them, only seeking to do the will of His father in heaven, never once seeking to make Himself happy in any way but willfully submitting to God as a man, never doing what He wanted to do but what He saw His Father in heaven doing.

Beyond this, believing in Jesus means that He, as God, spoke for God. He was both the message and messenger of the way God expects us to live. The Sermon on the Mount is but one example that Jesus claimed His teachings had the very authority of God. What we believe is that His words are truth and life: “…If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

So, just as Karolyn said (and the group concurred), the answer to the question, “who or what?” is, “Yes!” To “believe in Him” is part and parcel of trusting in what the Word of God reveals about Him. “Who” we believe in and “what” we believe about Him are two sides of the same coin. To believe the “what” of Jesus to be something other than what Scripture reveals and He claimed to be is, in essence, a failure to “believe in Him” with the kind of faith that, as Jesus said, allows us to “not perish but have eternal life.”


“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

In our Life Group we were studying this passage – probably the best known in all of Scripture. The study breaks down this verse by its critical components: God loved, God gave, we believe, and we live. If this sounds familiar, it is based upon Max Lucado’s 3:16: Numbers of Hope guide. Although admittedly not a huge Lucado fan, the lessons stimulated some lively discussion. And rightly so: this verse is pregnant with meaning often overlooked because we are so familiar with it. The 4th session turned to the word “believe” found in this powerful text.

What doe the word “believe” here mean? Unfortunately, there are masses that simplistically interpret this word as a mere acknowledgement of Jesus, that the phrase “believe in Him” suggests mere intellectual assent and nothing more. But the Greek word used here, and is often translated “faith” in many biblical texts, is much richer than that. Here are a couple of examples of the depth of the word pisteuo:

“To be persuaded, therefore to place one’s confidence and trust, signifies reliance upon and not mere credence” – Vine’s Dictionary.

Lexicographer J. H. Thayer, an authority on the Greek New Testament, defines pisteuo as being, “used especially of the faith by which a man embraces Jesus, i.e. a conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah – the divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God, conjoined with obedience to Christ” (Greek-English Lexicon, T. & T. Clark, 1958, p. 511).

The point of our discussion was that a misunderstanding of what “believe” means is dangerous in our efforts to evangelize, employing the full truth of the Gospel, and detrimental to our walk with God. The word “believe” here clearly indicates something more potent than “head knowledge.” The faith that saves is one of not only placing our hope in Christ alone for our redemption but also one that bows to His lordship. It is dynamic, transformational, and dependant upon Him for our salvation and our sanctification. It is a trust that produces a desire to be obedient to Christ and is compelled by a holistic surrender to who He is and all that entails. The “believe in Him” of John 3:16 changes our hearts because He has changed our minds (repented) about who and what He is. Romans 10:8-10 clarifies this: “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that we are saved based on anything beyond faith. But saving faith changes us. This type of belief is the kind of trust and surrender that inherently alters who we are. Why? Because this faith is the conduit that accesses God’s grace, produces redemption, unites us with Christ, summons the indwelling presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit, and secures our eternal destiny. This faith is a gift from God that triggers all of the promise and provision of God that is found “in Him [Christ].” As Paul shared in Romans: “…Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as  righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…” (4:3-5). And this is so that God, and God alone, gets the glory for this miracle of new birth and everlasting life that “believe in Him” secures.

Although this righteousness (salvation) is a gift (just like faith itself is a gift, as you will see in the next  scripture passage quoted), it is a gift that radically alters those who experience it. It is a heart makeover that redirects every aspect of our being. This is aptly tied together by Paul in his letter to the church at Ephesus: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works,so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (2:8-10).

So, is this the kind of belief that we possess? Is this the kind of belief that we proclaim as the true gospel? Or have we, in our personal lives or our proclamation of the message of eternal life, watered down “belief” into some kind of clinical acknowledgment of God that doesn’t necessarily change us from the inside out? It’s worth pondering – eternal destinies hang in the balance.

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