The Original Heresy, pt II: The Gnostic Gospels

Discovered near the Upper-Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi, the Gnostic Gospels (also known as the Nag Hammadi library, or the Nag Hammadi Codicies) have managed to capture imaginations, and generate heated debate over what biblical canon ought to be, what it is, and why it exists in its current form. This collection is made up of 13 leather-bound Codicies, and contains 52 separate works, most of which are Gnostic treatises. Of the parts that are not, there are three works that are part of the Corpus Hermeticus, and a partially rewritten version of Plato’s “Republic”, complete with Gnostic themes that had not existed prior.

Since their discovery, much of the debate that has surrounded them has focused on whether or not they are to be considered biblical canon. For the majority of Christians, they simply are not considered Scripture for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they are inconsistent with the actual biblical canon. In this post, we will explore why they are inconsistent, and hopefully dispel a few of the more interesting conspiracy theories.


In 1945, a man named Muhammad Ali and his brother were digging for fertilizer near the town of Nag Hammadi, when they unearthed a sealed clay jar. Though they were initially hesitant to open it, fearing that it might contain a Jinn (a type of Arabic demon, and where we get the English word “genie”), they were amazed to find the library carefully hidden within.

Rather than turn it over to local authorities, they chose to hang on to the library, in the hope that they would be able to get a really good price for each piece. The brothers took it home, and kept it there.

Through a series of events, virtually all of the library was eventually acquired by the Egyptian government, and is presently housed in a museum in Cairo. Of the parts that did not make it there, an unknown number were burned by Muhammad Ali’s mother, who feared that the codicies might cause too much trouble, and another part was eventually sold to an organization in the Netherlands, after it had been unsuccessfully offered for sale in the U.S.

The Languages

Though the Nag Hammadi library was written in Coptic, some linguists have suggested that it had been translated to Coptic from Syriac, based on the wording of certain works, like the Gospel of Thomas. The prevailing scholarly opinion is that it was originally written in Greek, but there is a strong case to be made for a Syriac origin.

In his essay, “The Fifth Gospel?”, for example, Nicholas Perrin points to linguistic analysis to suggest that the Gnostic Gospels were in fact Second Century Syriac documents, rather than First Century Judean. He says, “As I have argued more fully elsewhere, the evidence seems to show that the Coptic
gospel is not so much a witness to the historical Jesus, but instead a witness
to early Syriac Christianity. Following a linguistic analysis of the Coptic collection, with particular attention to the use of catchwords, it appears that
Thomas was not written—per the standard and prevailing assumption—in Greek, as an evolving sayings collection, dating back to the first or early second century. Instead, it seems that our sayings gospel was written in Syriac, as a piece, showing dependence on the first Syriac gospel record,
Tatian’s Diatessaron (c. ad 173).”

Perrin’s Findings

A page from Perrin’s “The Fifth Gospel?” showing the comparison between the Gospel of Thomas, the Diatessaron (a Second Century Syriac harmonization of the Synoptic Gospels) , and Scripture.

According to Perrin, the wording in the Gospel of Thomas is more reminiscent of the Diatessaron than the actual Gospel accounts, suggesting that the Gospel of Thomas was derived from the Diatessaron, not from the Synoptic Gospels. What this means for the Gnostic Gospels is that they may well have been written in the wrong time and place, with the wrong content, to be Scripture.

While the Gnostic Gospels themselves were physically dated to the Fifth Century, it is the materials contained within that were dated to the Second Century. This would imply that the Gospel of Thomas was written in the Second Century, never mind the fact that he is not believed to have survived to the turn of the century. Historians place him in India in the late 70’s when he died, yet, the Gospel of Thomas is dated to somewhere between 120-150 AD. That disparity is rather difficult to ignore.

Do bear in mind that I’ve only chosen to focus my attention on one small portion of the overall library because it is so big a detailed analysis would end up becoming a series of its own. The idea is not out of the question, but for now, I plan on sticking with the more skin-deep approach. I trust that the person reading this is more than capable of doing their own research.

The Contents

Going beyond the age of the documents, there are also the contents to be considered. What the Gospel of Thomas contains is a list of sayings attributed to Jesus throughout His ministry. Some are correct, others only partially so, and most find absolutely no correlation with what is found in the Synoptic Gospels. It runs the full gamut of credibility, however, it also completely lacks a narrative.

While some have suggested that the Gospel of Thomas is as old as the document commonly referred to as “Q”, the fact of the matter is that one would be hard pressed to make the case given the similarities between it and the Diatessaron.

Here are a few examples of what is found in the Gospel of Thomas:

#3. Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.

When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.”

#7. Jesus said, “Lucky is the lion that the human will eat, so that the lion becomes human. And foul is the human that the lion will eat, and the lion still will become human.”

#9. Jesus said, “Look, the sower went out, took a handful (of seeds), and scattered (them). Some fell on the road, and the birds came and gathered them. Others fell on rock, and they didn’t take root in the soil and didn’t produce heads of grain. Others fell on thorns, and they choked the seeds and worms ate them. And others fell on good soil, and it produced a good crop: it yielded sixty per measure and one hundred twenty per measure.” (Similar to the Parable of the Sower)

Finally, #14. Jesus said to them, “If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves, and if you pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity, you will harm your spirits.

When you go into any region and walk about in the countryside, when people take you in, eat what they serve you and heal the sick among them.

After all, what goes into your mouth will not defile you; rather, it’s what comes out of your mouth that will defile you.”

Note that much of 14 appears to be the very characterization of Gnosticism, while one small portion actually pertains to something Jesus said. This is an example of what I was saying. It is not difficult to insert an outside influence into Scripture and make it sound good. What simply does not help is that people today seem to be unwilling to sit down and engage with Scripture. People do not want to learn, and will be easily duped when someone comes along with heretical teaching that sounds similar to some half-remembered verse they heard in Sunday school.

How They Fail the Test

In my post on what constitutes heresy, I made the point that biblical teaching must be consistent with what is found in the Bible. The Bible is, in and of itself, the final judge of what is Scripture and what is not. Each of the books in Scripture find corroboration with the other books. Both Testaments support each other, with high degrees of agreement. Anything that does not mesh with this system is not to be considered Scripture. This is why the Gnostic Gospels fail as Scripture. Gnosticism is not biblically supported, it is actually proved false by it.

In Part 3, we will take a look at the Corpus Hermeticus.

Allow me to Introduce Myself…

I am a married Medical Assistant, parent of nine children (six sons, three daughters) and a currently serving Medic in the National Guard. I currently reside in a metropolitan city in the Midwest, though I’m a native Texan.

In case any are wondering, EngMed is short for Engineer Medic. I’m currently serving as a Platoon Medic in a Combat Engineer Company, so that seemed a fitting name, wouldn’t y’all think?

My interests vary between religion, politics, art, literature, hunting, camping, fishing, hiking, music, writing and serving the Lord. Yes, I am an evangelical Christian and I won’t ever shy away from the subject. I invite any to ask questions, debate and will gladly pray for any who ask.

In terms of politics, I’m a Conservative Constitutionalist. No, I’m not a Republican. I’m actually very disaffected with them, given that their commitment to conservative values tend to disappear faster than water on the surface of the sun.

I’m pro-gun, pro-life, pro-death penalty, and pro-limited government. I believe that the Constitution is the law of the land, not social whim.

I’m anti-Islam (a topic I will expand upon in the future), against virtually all forms of gun control, and I’m totally OK with the idea of legalizing marijuana, though I personally detest the stuff.

Well, I think that’s about all I have at this time. If y’all wanna know more, feel free to ask. I’ll just end with this quote:

“Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.” “It is sweet and fitting to die for your country.”

The Gospel: History’s Most Offensive Message

What if I were to tell you that I am in possession of what can only be described as the most offensive message in history? A message so offensive to humanity that entire wars and campaigns of brutal persecution have been waged to stamp it out? A message so hated that people are still being beaten, tortured, raped, imprisoned, burned alive, beheaded, hung, impaled, and fed to half-starved wild animals for not only refusing to refrain from sharing this message, but for refusing to stop adhering to its central tenets? When it comes to messages in life, this one hits with the force of millions upon millions of nuclear weapons and fundamentally changes every life it impacts, and I am going to share it with you.

Before I set about laying out this message, there is a lot of background that must be covered. The story of this message begins in a place that is both well known and unknown all in one go. No one is quite sure where this place is physically located and yet this place has served as the source for all of humanity, the good, the bad, and the brutally ugly. This place is the Garden of Eden, and this place is where history’s most offensive message began to take shape.

Where we begin is in Genesis 3:1-7,

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

Prior to the moment when Adam and Eve fell in the Garden, the universe had existed in perfect balance[1]. Neither Adam nor Eve were subject to death and decay, which means that they were meant to be immortal. The Serpent changed all of that when he targeted Eve because she was the most vulnerable. Adam had failed in his charge as the first created, and as husband, to properly instruct Eve on the only Law God had given him, which was,

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.~Genesis 2:17

Note the discrepancy between Eve’s understanding of the command given by God (Gen. 3:2-3) and the actual command He gave (Gen. 2:17). This is a case of failure on the part of Adam because he was the one who was supposed to have told Eve about that tree. It was also his job to instruct her properly and ensure that she understood. He failed all around, and topped it off with a brilliant example of how to be apathetic as a man because Scripture shows that he was present for the conversation between Eve and the Serpent. This means that he did not have a single excuse for what happened next, which makes his attempt to shift blame when questioned by the Lord even worse (Gen. 3:12). When he says, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat”, he was seeking to place blame on both God and Eve for what was clearly his own fault. What we have here is the first recorded case of “If I’m going down, so are you” in history.

Where Adam went wrong, and how he became the one to whom the credit for original sin goes, is that it was his responsibility to teach Eve what she needed to know for life in the Garden, and he failed to do so. It was his irresponsibility that left her vulnerable to begin with, and it was that vulnerability, combined with feminine pride, that led to her decision. This does nothing to absolve her of guilt, as her act was borne out of pride, but it does show where this whole series of events began, and where we are to look first when it comes to failure in marriage and the home. Adam was Eve’s husband, her spiritual cover, and the one who bore the most responsibility for her entire life. She came out of him, and therefore, it was his responsibility to teach, guide, and lead her.

From this point on, things would not remain the same. God expels them from the Garden, and the struggle begins from there. However, there are a few elements that I want to bring to your attention before we move on from here. First, Adam and Eve were the first Gnostics in history. One of the primary driving forces behind Gnosticism[2] is the idea that there is hidden divine knowledge that can elevate people to a divine status. For example, Celtic Druidism[3] taught that reincarnated souls would go through time gaining what they called “authority”, eventually evolving into a god-like status, which is like the teachings of the Mormon Church, though there are some major differences. This is relevant because Genesis 3 shows us the origin of that lie. Genesis 3:5 says, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil”. This is the birth of Gnosticism, a heresy that we still must deal with in the modern age, the very first heresy that led to the downfall of the first man and first woman, and the heart of this heresy centers around the human desire to be like God.

The second point here is that there is a modern heretical teaching surrounding this passage and Genesis 3:22-24, “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” The teaching is that this was a point where the Serpent had been honest while the Lord had lied, and the basis of this teaching centers around the fact that Adam and Eve did not immediately die upon tasting the fruit.

I came across this heretical teaching a short time ago, and was immediately struck by the way it was structured. It involves a careful twisting of Scripture and applies an exegetical[4] approach that is entirely too simplistic and adherence requires one to ignore the fact that no part of this has ever been interpreted by Jewish or Christian scholars in that way. The person I debated with argued that God had lied in the Garden, and that Scripture was wrong because it said that Adam and Eve had not known death. Their reasoning was that they ate of the fruit in the Garden, which meant that they most definitely knew about death. They also said that the reason why God had lied was that He feared what would happen should Man become like Him.

The argument was long and drawn out, and they were unconvinced in the end, but in case you encounter an argument similar to this, the point I made was that 1) yes, they were aware of the concept of death and decay because they ate food, 2) they were unaffected by death and decay prior to sinning in the Garden, and 3) upon eating the fruit they took the universe from a closed system to an open one, at which point the Second Law of Thermodynamics became a factor. This made them subject to death and decay, which meant that the instant they ate of the fruit they began to do what every human has done since, which is to slowly die even as they live. In effect, Adam and Eve became dead people walking the moment the fruit touched their lips, and the only question that remained was how long they had remaining before their now inevitable deaths. As an added element to this, imagine what would have happened if they had eaten of the tree of life and become immortal while remaining subject to decay. God saved them from a truly wretched fate by expelling them from the Garden.

The overall impact their decision had on humanity is that their descendants inherited something that had not been there originally, namely the desire to defy the Lord and His Law. From that point on, we have been born with the inherent compulsion to live our lives separated from God and His Law. It was this change in Adam that prompted the Lord to give the very first Messianic prophecy, Genesis 3:14-15,

And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

15And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

This compulsion to defy God is so powerful that it has caused no end of struggle, strife, and misery throughout the whole of human history. We cannot help it; it has become second nature to us. If the Lord tells us to go one way, our immediate desire is to go the opposite. Additionally, we are also quite skilled at deluding ourselves when it comes to this tendency. Rather than admit that our behavior is sinful and demonstrates a complete lack of trust in the Lord, we seek to qualify or justify our misdeeds. We try to grade our sins on a scale that makes us appear to be decent people who make mistakes, while painting other people as “monsters” and “sinners”. In this way, humans can get away with pretending that they do not in fact come away from this dirty.

In the modern age, this is accomplished through things like watching the nightly news and declaring the people committing horrible acts in the news stories as sinners and horrible people while simultaneously declaring that they are not sinners because they are not doing those horrible things. The problem here is that this is all an illusion, a carefully crafted lie that people are using to avoid facing the truth about their base nature. No human is safe from this, no human is exempt, and the sooner an individual human realizes this, the better. Humans are in possession of a base nature that is depraved and contrary to the Law of God, and this is the greatest stumbling block for humanity. This is also why this message is so offensive. It is an effort to force someone to acknowledge that which they fear more than anything else in this world, which is the true statement that they are wretched rebels, standing in opposition to the living God, existing without hope for redemption before Him in judgment.

Human beings do not want to be made aware of how wretchedly depraved they are. They either want to cruise through life committed to the idea that they are good people, or they simply love their sins. They will seek to surround themselves with people who will continuously reinforce the idea. Anything that poses a threat to this comfortable delusion is greeted with malice, hatred, and rage. I have seen this, most especially with people living in the LGBTQIA+ lifestyles, whose criticisms of Christianity can be distilled down to the fact that we will not tell them that their lifestyles are acceptable before God.

Their response will generally be one in which they will go to great lengths to not only silence the one delivering the message, but they will also seek to prevent others from hearing the same message. It is not enough to not have to hear it themselves, they must go out of their way to ensure no one else has to endure it, either. Therefore, street preachers seeking to share this highly offensive message so often face verbal and physical opposition in the form of yelling, screaming, threats, and acts of violence, all with the intent of preventing them from sharing this message. This is a certainty for one who engages in the act of street preaching, so be prepared for it.

All around the world, people who seek to live out this message are targeted by their governments for abuse. Why? Because adherence places certain requirements on the person, not the least of which is self-reflection, self-evaluation, and total honesty regarding one’s base nature. A person must go from “I’m ok” to “I’m really not ok” in a way that fills people with fear and loathing. It requires that a person discard the comfortable lie for an uncomfortable truth, and that is simply too much to ask for most people. In response, their first instinct is to block or remove whatever it is that is causing that discomfort in the same way that a person removed a pebble from their shoe, and this includes persecution. It is the original cancel culture, and it is not going anywhere any time soon. Today, this takes the form of censorship on social media platforms, the taking down of videos and automatic removal of offending comments on YouTube, doxing followed by protests and acts of violence at people’s homes, and people being accosted in public places.

At the root of the persecution that takes place is the desire to maintain the illusion that everything is alright. The natural desire to run away from God’s Law leads to the formation of human societies whereupon people are taught that their way of life is as good as it gets, and that there is nothing beyond that reality. In countries like China and North Korea, for example, this takes the shape of leader worship and the State control of every aspect of life. There is no shortage of accounts coming out of those countries of people being forced to devote their entire lives to service to the State and their “Dear Leader” while being told that the rest of the world is in worse shape. Especially in North Korea, people are starving daily, and they are being told that they never had it so good. The result is that people go from cradle to grave never knowing the truth of their depravity and their wretched situation.

Persecution of those sharing this message is not anything new, either. The first three centuries of Christian history are marked by persecution, abuse, destruction, and a concerted effort by the powers-that-be to erase this message from the face of the earth. Roman historian Tacitus wrote that Emperor Nero blamed Christians for the fire that had burned half of Rome[5], and in reprisal inflicted all manner of horrific abuse on them. They were being imprisoned, tortured slaughtered, and some were even impaled on stakes and lit on fire for use as human torches. Such was the desire to stamp out the message of the Gospel that wholesale atrocity became the norm when it came to the treatment of Christians in the Roman Empire.

Nor was this restricted to Rome. The Apostle Thomas met his end in India, having traveled there to honor Jesus’ command to spread the Gospel. The message of the Gospel was viewed with such contempt and hatred that they had him executed by four spearmen who ran him through simultaneously. The Apostles spread out in all directions and all but one[6] met with grisly ends on three different continents because of the message they proclaimed and refused to recant.

Everywhere the Gospel goes, it is viewed with contempt, hatred, and anger. Why? Because it forces us to look inward to the parts of us that are too ugly to contemplate. We want to believe that we are good people, and that all we need to make it to the afterlife is to do more good deeds than bad and hope for the best. Sadly, this could not be farther from the truth. We do not even have the luxury of blaming Satan for this as “the Devil made me do it” is not a valid excuse.

Scripture is clear where our works are concerned. For example, Isaiah 64:6 states, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Take note of the words I have placed in bold print. They are “our righteousnesses”, “filthy”, and “rags”. The word rendered as our righteousnesses is צִדְקֹתֵ֑ינוּ (sidkotaynu) and can alternately be translated as “our righteous deeds or acts”. According to Strong’s Concordance (#6666), sidkotaynu references both our subjective and objective rightness. It comes from the root צְדָקָה (tzedakah) and is a reference to what we Americans would call “all that is right with the world”. This is a word that carries the connotation of justice, rightness, rectitude, virtue, and prosperity. Everything we associate with the English word “good” is covered by this one word.

The next word is filthy, עִדִּ֖ים (‘iddyim). The root is עִדִּים (aid), and can only be rendered as filthy. This is a word that carries a connotation of rot, corruption, being soiled, and is used in conjunction with references to menstrual flow. When coupled with the word for rags, וּכְבֶ֥גֶד (ukebeged), what we get is menstrual rags. What we have then is a comparison between every act or deed we would consider good, right, or just and a used menstrual pad or tampon. I want you to consider the imagery very carefully from just those three Hebrew words and what they mean in English. All that you can do, every single good, just, and righteous act you could possibly commit, up to and including sacrificing your own life for others, is viewed with contempt because it all bears the taint of Sin. If it bears the taint of Sin, and is therefore contemptible, how can any of us have even a glimmer of hope of Salvation?

This is a big part of the reason why the Gospel message is so offensive. In many of my interactions with people, one of the things they have most often done is to present themselves as good people that the Lord will grant entrance into heaven because they are good people, and it frustrates me to no end. Jesus said it best, “there is none good but one, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18). All too often what I am told is, “He knows my heart”, and I always have to respond with “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) If you have used this line, you are correct, and therefore you are sunk. He knows your heart, and your heart is a big part of why you are under His wrath.

Where this leaves us is in dire need of hope in a hopeless situation, and this is where the Lord God has offered us an opportunity. His love for us is so great that He chose to assume human form, came to the earth, lived as a human being, taught, stood trial, and was executed for crimes He did not commit, to bring us redemption. Jesus of Nazareth is God in the flesh, and He came to the earth so that we may be redeemed and cleansed of our Sin. He chose to go up on that Cross and take the Father’s cup of Holy wrath for our sake. He stood in the gap and took the punishment intended for us, so that we may enjoy eternal life, and He did it all even though He did not have to!

John 3:16-21, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

There is not a scenario whereupon you will be declared righteous before God based on your own merits. If there was, then Jesus went through the ordeal of the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension for nothing! This is what can only be described as one of the greatest sticking points in the entire Gospel message because people are deeply uncomfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable. This idea can only be described as problematic for everyone, even those of us who have been saved, and therefore there have been so many violent acts committed against believers for as long as there have been believers. Taking someone who has fully committed themselves to the idea that they are good people and removing that veil of illusion is not just painful, it is devastating! This is how we end up with ideas like the most recent philosophical standpoint that words are violence. [Note: this standpoint is not new, just recycled over and over]

If words constitute violence, then the act of taking down someone’s logically fallacious arguments regarding things like the Gospel message would be equivalent to knocking in someone’s front teeth. In their minds, they are then justified in responding in kind by seeking to literally knock in your front teeth. As if that was not enough, this philosophical standpoint has the added benefit of being hypocritical as the person holding said standpoint must commit an act of verbal violence against you by telling you that your words are violence. Good luck getting them to acknowledge that, though. Every time I have made that point, it has been completely ignored. It all comes back to the all too human desire to be seen as a good person, which finds its root in pride, and both confirmation bias and narcissism count as the worst forms of pride.

Not too long ago I took the time to read a blog post regarding a news story involving a teacher who had been relieved of his duties because he refused to play along with the demands of a transgendered student. The main thrust of the post was one that denigrated the teacher for holding his position, and the comments section was full of people referring to how wrong the teacher is because, well, reasons. No one was making a cogent argument, just using misconception and half-truths to support the idea that we should fully support delusional people in their delusion because words are violence.

When I chose to comment, I quoted something that appeared in the post, specifically, “dangerous ramifications for the incitement of violence,”. I made the point that, regardless of which side you fall on an issue, these words could be taken as a threat of violence. While the two people who responded to me in the comment section were respectful, one only barely so, the fact of the matter is that they were both convinced that there was nothing wrong with the quote I focused on. One of them went so far as to say, “I can’t wait until “its just a opinion” dies in the fires of Hell”.

When I sought clarification on where that person would draw the line between words and violence, their response was in part, “I would draw the line at that teacher degrading that child. That teacher is SUPPOSED to be a person who protects children, not mock them.” Of course, I asked for an example of how the teacher was degrading the child in question, however, no answer was forthcoming. They were just angry, and openly advocating violence, because someone dared question the narrative.

The other one to respond was a bit more forthcoming, but ultimately shut down the discussion because I had an answer for all their objections to the existence of Jesus and the truth of Scripture. Before the conversation came to an end, there was some back and forth over the idea that words are violence, and one of the things said to me was, “You need to understand and appreciate the power you possess and use it responsibly”. While this is a technically true statement, the fact remains that words do not constitute violence unless they are openly advocating violence, but our opposition has chosen to make OUR words equivalent to acts of violence to silence us. Can words cause pain? Yes. Can they damage our psyche? Yes. Do we have the right to respond with violence if someone says something hurtful to us? No. Jesus taught that we are to turn the other cheek, and this is exactly what He meant, no vengeance, no reprisal. Sadly, there are too many humans on this planet who would disagree with the last statement, which takes us back to the point of being in rebellion against God. If a disagreement over pronouns is enough to justify violence, then what does that say about the Gospel message itself? If fists can fly over, he/him, she/her, or whichever other pronouns people are attaching to themselves, then what does it say about “You are a wretched sinner who is living your life under the wrath of God and need to repent and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for Redemption and Salvation”?

If you were wondering why I refer to the Gospel message as history’s most offensive message, this would be why. The truth of this message hits at the core of our being and goes entirely against the inclinations of our flesh. Too often the passions of the flesh will hit on deep seated wounds and prejudices that people find too difficult to get past, IF they are inclined to do so at all. When something bumps against those things, the first instinct is to lash out in a violent manner, and it takes a great deal of control to move past that initial response, and most people are not inclined to exercise that kind of control over their emotions.

What then are we to do? If we are all but guaranteed to face violent opposition in our efforts to share the Gospel, then how can we make the determination that it is worth it to share? Jesus answers that question very succinctly in Matthew 10:26-31,

Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. 27What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. 28And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

We do not have the right to call ourselves followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and allow fear, anxiety, or worry over whether we are being offensive to slow us down in any way with honoring His commands. This applies as much for keeping His Commandments as it does to sharing the Gospel. No matter the cost, we are obligated to do this, and there is no getting around it. We cannot worry over the idea of being harmed or killed for this message, and the Lord is all-knowing, which means that He will know when we stumble or fall over ourselves in the process. No pressure.

What is repentance?

One of the words that will be used frequently is “repentance”, but what does it mean? How do we repent? The short answer is that we must not only acknowledge our Sin, but we must apologize for it and make the conscious decision to turn away from it. For most Sin, this is easier said than done, as many of us will end up repeating our sinful behavior many times before it finally sticks. This is where the Lord’s mercy and grace come into play. There are two words in Scripture that cover this concept, and we will look at them both.

The first word used is μετάνοια (metanoia), and the word generally means “repentance, a change of mind, change in the inner man”. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance says the following about metanoia,

“…especially the change of mind of those who have begun to abhor their errors and misdeeds, and have determined to enter upon a better course of life, so that it embraces both a recognition of sin and sorrow for it and hearty amendment, the tokens and effects of which are good deeds…”

The Hebrew words used for repentance, נֹחַם (nocham) and שׁוּב (shub), both translate as “sorrow, repentance” (nocham) and “to turn back, return” (shub). Collectively these words embody a similar concept to metanoia, in that we are to be sorrowful and broken over the ways that we have wronged the Lord, and that we are to turn away from the sinful things of our past and turn our eye toward the Lord and His Salvation.

This is an especially profound change that takes place within the individual, and it must take place for one to be saved. As human beings are not capable of such change in and of themselves, this means that the change can only come from a source that is not found within us, and that source is the Holy Spirit. This is what the Doctrine of Regeneration[7] is all about. In being converted, we become a new person, imbued with a new nature, and given to new ideals and passions that did not exist within us before. Since my conversion I have experienced a whole host of changes to my habits. I have not only given up my addictions, but my musical preferences have changed, I no longer watch TV, I gave up social media, and many of my former tendencies and personality quirks have changed in ways I am still trying to understand. I have become calmer, more reliable, less apt to lose my temper, and I find joy and pleasure in things relating to God and my family. My sense of humor has changed, in that those things I once found funny simply are not anymore. Do I still have some of the tendencies I had before? Yes, however, I am a work in progress. I may not be the man I am supposed to be, but I am not the man I once was, and I give all the credit and glory to the Holy Spirit because there is no way I could affect this kind of change within myself. I am depraved, broken, and corrupted. It takes the Holy Spirit to remove all of that and fill me with the desire to follow Him and His Law.

Here is another example of the kind of changes the Holy Spirit brings about in our hearts. Before I converted, one of my favorite TV shows was Two-and-a-half Men. One of the actors on the show, Angus T. Jones, who played Jake Harper, turned to Christ a few years before I did, and he said something that I did not fully understand until I too had converted. He said,

“If you watch Two and a Half Men, please stop watching Two and a Half Men. I’m on Two and a Half Men, and I don’t want to be on it. Please stop watching it, and filling your head with filth. People say it’s just entertainment. Do some research on the effects of television and your brain, and I promise you you’ll have a decision to make when it comes to television, especially with what you watch.”[8]

The work of the Holy Spirit in his life and heart was so profound that he was led to apologize for his involvement in the show. In case you are not familiar, the show was about two brothers, Alan (John Cryer) and Charlie (Charlie Sheen) Harper, and Alan’s son Jake (Jones). They live in Charlie’s house and the entire comedy centers around Charlie’s hedonistic lifestyle, and Alan’s efforts to deal with his life as a weak man who tries to cope with a failed marriage and a son who is growing up to be a man. Much of the humor is crude and physical, presenting vulgarity and dysfunction as something to be laughed at. Granted, we oftentimes find ourselves in situations so horrible that our only options are to laugh or cry, but this show takes things to an obscene length. This is just one example of the changes that have taken place. I used to enjoy this show and now the thought of watching it makes me feel sick.

When I was younger, I used to be mystified by the way that some Christians would categorically reject various things that I saw as being “not that bad”. Since beginning my walk, not only have I come to reject things that can hinder my walk with the Lord, but I have found that I can give people the boot as well. I have ceased speaking to relatives and friends who I recognized quickly as being detrimental to my relationship with the Lord. This is something that we must all be willing to do, cling to the Lord no matter the cost. Your relationship with Him should be the premier relationship in your life, even above your own spouse. Never forget that you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, and mind. All else will flow from there.

[1] Second Law of Thermodynamics: “The second law of thermodynamics states that any spontaneously occurring process will always lead to an escalation in the entropy (S) of the universe. In simple words, the law explains that an isolated system’s entropy will never decrease over time.

Nonetheless, in some cases where the system is in thermodynamic equilibrium or going through a reversible process, the total entropy of a system and its surroundings remains constant. The second law is also known as the Law of Increased Entropy.” (Excerpted from

[2] “Gnosticism is a philosophical worldview that stresses special knowledge.  The word comes from the Greek gnosis meaning knowledge.  Gnosticism was prevalent in the first century during and after the time of Christ.  It maintains that matter is evil and spirit is good.  Because matter is bad human souls, in a sense, are trapped in a material world.” ~ “What is Gnosticism?” by Matt Slick

[3] Monroe, Douglas (2002), “The 21 Lessons of Merlyn: A Study in Druid Magic and Lore”, Llewellyn Publications

[4] Exegesis: the detailed explanation of a piece of writing, especially religious writing.

[5] “Yet no human effort, no princely largess nor offerings to the gods could make that infamous rumor disappear that Nero had somehow ordered the fire. Therefore, in order to abolish that rumor, Nero falsely accused and executed with the most exquisite punishments those people called Christians, who were infamous for their abominations. The originator of the name, Christ, was executed as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius; and though repressed, this destructive superstition erupted again, not only through Judea, which was the origin of this evil, but also through the city of Rome, to which all that is horrible and shameful floods together and is celebrated.” ~Tacitus, Annals, 15.44

[6] The only Apostle to die of old age was John, and he spent decades imprisoned and exiled for his refusal to recant his testimony.

[7] “Regeneration takes place at the moment of salvation when the omnipotence of God the Holy Spirit creates a human spirit in the believer in order that they may receive the imputation of eternal life enabling the believer to live with God forever.” (

[8] Angus T. Jones full bio, IMDB (

What is the Mark of the Beast

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: 17And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” (Revelation 13:16-18)

Going into this, I know that mine is only a single voice in a whole crowd of voices extending back through the ages. That this is a topic that has captivated many would be a massive understatement, to say the least. The fact of the matter is that theories abound as to what the Mark of the Beast is, which form it is to take, and a whole host of permutations of the same. Of late, many have theorized that the mark may be the COVID-19 vaccines, which is just the latest version of paranoid imaginings to hit the scene. I know, I may anger some with that statement, but I do so out of love. I believe them to be very misguided, though well meaning. The more I study, and the more I have come to understand eschatological texts, the more convinced I am that the Mark of the Beast will not be something as mundane as an RFID chip, a debit card, a vaccine, or even a barcode tattooed into people’s skin. No, it is something much too subtle, and far more insidious, as the elect would not be fooled by such things, and Scripture suggests that the Mark might be able to fool professing Christians.

What then is the Mark? If I were to distill it down to the shortest answer possible, the Mark is belief and loyalty to a system that is entirely man-centered, brutally intolerant of any dissention, completely authoritarian, and devoid of any true godliness. It is a system that is the perfect embodiment of what Satan has longed for since the beginning, a world that bends the knee solely to him, and not to the God who created him. As hard as I try, this is the simplest way I can think of to express the conclusion I have arrived at. It is a system so subtle and cunning that even professing Christians can and will be tricked into adhering to it, and that is the reason why I have come to this conclusion.

I will begin by addressing some of the other theories, though I will not be going in to too much detail. The reason why I am convinced that it will not be chips, tattoos, or vaccines is that there is not a single government on the planet that possesses the mechanisms necessary to pull off such a scheme, and the United Nations is simply too corrupt, inept, and disorganized to even take up their slack. Can they institute something similar? Sure, they can try. However, there has been discussion of COVID-19 vaccine passports in the halls of Congress, along with the halls of the many state legislatures, but those discussions have basically gone nowhere. A lot would have to happen for them to pull off something like that, far more than I think members of Congress would be willing to do. Such an operation would require a level of precision that your average congressman or congresswoman would be unable to manage. Sorry folks, as nefarious as we like to think they are, the truth is that most of the members of Congress are too wrapped up their own self-interests to be bothered to coordinate something on that level. Rampant narcissism tends to do that to people, and Congress positively reeks of narcissism. I know that may burst a lot of bubbles, but the fact is that reality looks nothing like Hollywood, and we cannot take our lessons on reality from Hollywood. Mark Twain once famously summed up the topic on Congress very succinctly when he said,

“Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”[1]

It goes without saying that people in Mr. Twain’s Day held just as low an opinion of Congress as people do today, though I am sure they liked to think that the people they voted for were the only useful and intelligent members surrounded by a sea of idiots. I mean, I like my Senator because his values mirror my own, but my Representative is a flaming BLM supporting Socialist, so I must split the difference. Just do not ask me about the current President unless you feel like sitting through a riotous tirade the likes of which would have no comparison.

I have been a part of the military for nearly 16 years now, and I can attest to a few facts based upon lessons learned during my service. For one, the United States Armed Forces do not have the manpower or infrastructure to pull off such a thing. At the height of the Global War on Terror the Armed Forces was made up of a little over 3 million members, including reserve components. At present, that number has been reduced drastically, and the current US population is more than 331 million people. There is no possible way that anyone could forcibly vaccinate that many people with so few in anything resembling a realistic amount of time.

Second, even if we did have all of that, most of us would refuse due to the fact of our Oath of Enlistment, which binds us to the protection and upholding of the Constitution. As both a Christian, and a Soldier, my first loyalty is to God, my second to my wife, my family, and then my nation. I am bound by sacred oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, even if it costs me my life. As such, there is not one bit of a chance that I would knowingly take an action that violates the rights of my fellow citizens, and I am very certain that I am not alone in that sentiment. Finally, even if we were somehow tricked into inserting chips through vaccines, from where would those chips come? Who would monitor the data provided by those chips? Even with AI and automation, we are looking at a cumbersome system that would require a level of connectivity and interaction that is just mind-blowing. Besides, why would they go to those lengths when we have already given them all the connectivity they need?

Bear something in mind. It is highly likely that you have already given the system the level of connectivity necessary to render chips, vaccines, and tattoos unnecessary, and you likely are not even aware of it. Do me a favor and place your hand on your cell phone, wherever it may be, and take a moment to marvel over the fact that you are walking around with a computer small enough to fit in your pocket, and so deeply connected to an interconnected system that it can be used to pinpoint your location almost anywhere on this planet in near real-time. If it is Google connected, it is also likely that it is listening to everything you say and cataloging future search terms and shopping options. Uncomfortable yet?

Did you think that all the time you spend on the internet was truly harmless? I am sorry to say, but we have all been integrated into a system that makes chips, tattoos, and vaccines useless and impractical as the Mark of the Beast. Even I have a hard time imagining life without the internet, and I was born roughly a decade BEFORE it was invented. I pre-date the internet by a decent amount of time, and did not have a single thing to do with it until I was in my 20s. In fact, nearly half of my life was spent in a world nearly devoid of computers, the internet, and many things digital. How amazing is it that so much can change in such a short amount of time?

The fact of the matter is that chips, tattoos, and vaccines are rendered useless by the digital age, and we need to recognize this if we are to determine for ourselves what the Mark of the Beast truly is. Your digital footprint does far more than an RFID chip, a tattoo, or a vaccine could ever accomplish, and the powers-that-be did not have to lift a finger to get to that point. All that needed to happen was that someone had to drop a shiny, nifty, new gadget in your hands and show you how to use it. Once that happened, we all took off like rockets straight for the moon. Do not allow yourself to be fooled by the idea that the internet is not dangerous, the most useful tools in our lives are fully capable of killing us or ruining us. Just ask anyone who has been at fault in an accident of some kind, especially if it was due to their own gross negligence.

As you can see, the Mark of the Beast clearly cannot ever be anything like chips, tattoos, or vaccines. It is impractical, unnecessary, and no one can pull it off. Not even the UN can do it, though they are evil and insidious enough to try. Where does that leave us? Right back to what I said before, the Mark is belief in, and adherence to, a system that centers entirely around Man, to the exclusion of the Lord God. The Mark of the Beast is therefore loyalty to a system designed by Satan, intended for Satan, and will only lead to the destruction of all. Without further ado, let us then delve into the aspects of the Mark and what brought me to the conclusion I have reached.

Numbers and their meaning

            If you have done any study of the Christian Bible, you may have come to the realization that certain numbers are assigned meaning by the Lord through the Scriptures. Christian numerology is like Jewish numerology, though some of the numbers and concepts are different. For this topic, the numbers to be considered are 3 and 6, and both are equally important. Each of these numbers has a specific meaning that must be considered when considering the number 666.  The number three is symbolic of the Trinity, which means that the number 666 is in fact indicative of a trinity because it is comprised of three sixes.

            The number seven is known as the number of completion, and when combined with the meaning behind the number three, what we have is the completion of YHWH (777). A trinity of 7’s is symbolic of the Lord’s completion and oneness. Given this pattern, we can conclude that the number 666 is a trinitarian representation of something relating to the number six. In biblical numerology the number six represents Man, which means that 666 is a man-centered trinitarian formula representing a system run by an unholy trinity. Revelation shows this trinity to be the Dragon (Satan), the first beast (the Antichrist), and the second beast, (the false prophet), and receiving the Mark means that one chooses to be loyal to this unholy trinity.

Right Hands & Foreheads

            Revelation 13:16 says, “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:”. One of the mistakes that the well-meaning and misguided do here is that they interpret this verse literally without ever stopping to question if this might not be metaphor, an analogy, or allegory. In this case, this is an analogy. As with numbers, Scripture assigns meaning to things like body parts, terrain features, and various natural and philosophical processes. This means that we must look at the biblical meaning for the right hand and the forehead, and it turns out that these meanings shed new light on what it means to receive a mark on one’s right hand and forehead.

            In Messianic texts found in the Tanakh the Messiah Jesus is often referred to as the right arm of God. In modern parlance, we refer to a close and trusted colleague or assistant as being our “right-hand man”. Straightaway what we get is someone loyal, trustworthy, and so close to us that they can act with our own authority. The Messiah coming as the Lord’s right arm takes on a different meaning as He literally is a part of God. He is God in the flesh, the One sent to redeem us before the Father so that we may experience eternal life with Him in His Kingdom, so the right hand is something of tremendous importance.

            Furthermore, most humans on this planet are right-handed. This means that warriors of old regarded their right hand as being their sword hand, with their left being their shield hand. This means that the Lord Jesus Christ is the sword arm of the Lord God, and it also means that the people who accept the Mark make the choice to pledge their “sword arm” to the unholy trinity found in Revelation. To be the sword arm of someone is to pledge loyalty, fealty, and one’s own body to their service. When I swore the oath of enlistment, I made myself into a part of my country’s sword arm, and I raised my right hand as I did so. Is that not something to consider?

            Today there are people all over these United States who have dedicated their entire lives to Leftist ideals, pledging their lives and livelihoods to the idea of overthrowing our Constitutional Republic and replacing it with a Communist/Socialist Authoritarian government that will strip everyone of their rights. A few years back, I came across an article in which a graduating Cadet from West Point was discharged from the Army for posting a picture of himself holding his cap in such a way that people could see a note he had written that said,

“Communism will win.”[2]

            As if that was not enough, there are millions of Muslims equally as dedicated to the same idea, only with the intent of replacing our government with a Caliphate and Shariah law. In either case, our nation is being relentlessly attacked from within by people who have received a mark on their right hand by pledging their lives to the cause, and this is an element that cannot be ignored.

            The right hand also signifies strength, which means that a person pledging their sword arm is pledging their strength to the chosen cause. If you are going to give your life in service to a cause and ideology, then you must give all your strength in its service. No one who dedicates their weakness to a cause does it any favors, so it must be all of one’s strength. In the end, this means that the people who receive the Mark pledge their right hand to the cause, which in turn means that they pledge their loyalty, fealty, their strength, and their lives to the unholy trinity.

            This brings us to the forehead. In Scripture, the forehead signifies loyalty, dedication, and the forehead was used in the ancient world as a way of advertising to people which group it was that you belonged to. In Exodus 28:38, the emblem of holiness was placed on Aaron’s forehead to show that he belonged to YHWH, so we do find ourselves in a place reminiscent of the right hand.

            Anyone with a background in martial arts and/or medicine knows that the upper maxillofacial region of the human skull is made up of some of the densest and strongest bones in the human body, second only to the femur if I am not mistaken. This means that the forehead makes for an effective weapon against enemies in hand-to-hand combat, which places it in the same category as the sword hand, especially if they find the nasty headache afterwards acceptable. Additionally, much of our character expression is to be found on our forehead. As it is a rather prominent section of our faces, it is one of the first areas we look to when seeking to judge the mood of the person we are looking at. All of this means that the forehead is especially important, and is also indicative of the love and devotion one gives to a cause, whether righteous or unrighteous.

            Between the right hand and the forehead then, we get the picture of people who have chosen to dedicate their love, their devotion, and their lives to the unholy trinity headed up by Satan. They have pledged their loyalty, and have promised to fight in the cause that Satan has espoused. The fact that most of them are doing so unwittingly is immaterial before the Lord, they will still be condemned when they face the Lord in judgment, and this is what we are up against. Not RFID chips, vaccines, tattoos, chipped debit cards, or any other thing people can erroneously declare to be the Mark of the Beast, but the love, devotion, and loyalty of people who believe that they are fighting for a just cause.

            As they regard this as a just cause, this means that any opposition is to be regarded as unjust by extension. The best example I can give is BLM and AntiFa. The names of these movements and groups were well chosen because opposition to them implies that you are either a racist, a fascist, or both. If you oppose the group known as “Black Lives Matter”, the implication is that black lives do not matter to you, which makes you a monster. When one of my favorite YouTube comedy channels came out in support of BLM, I commented on their statement of support that I cannot subscribe to a channel that supports terrorists. The first person to respond to me said, “Just admit that you don’t like Black people and leave.” That right there is anecdotal evidence that the tactic works.

            Similarly, AntiFa, short for Anti-Fascism, is meant to imply that anyone who stands in opposition is automatically a fascist. This precludes the idea that there can be anything resembling other ideas outside of their lexicon. It also ironically lends credence to the idea that fascism cannot ever be allowed to gain a foothold in this country, even though their tactics and stated beliefs are fascist in nature. In the end, both groups have successfully used words to create a false equivalence that allows them to behave in a deeply violent and intolerant manner to rid the world of the exact same evil they are trying to fill it with.

            There is no room for God in their ideologies, which makes the fact that many professing Christians have given them full support even more significant. Here are presumably decent, well-meaning people who love the idea of justice as much as any other Bible-believing Christian, but who have pledged their loyalty and fealty to a system that is as anti-Gospel as any can get! The only justice they ought to be dedicated to is God’s justice, and yet, they focus on a mockery of justice that leaves no room for dissent, no room for redemption, and no room for forgiveness. The true biblical Gospel is all about bringing us into right relationship with a just and loving God, through the forgiveness and remission of our sins, and BLM/AntiFa leave absolutely no room for any of that.

            Can we as Christians find good cause to support groups like BLM and AntiFa? No. There is none, as their stated beliefs and ideologies are completely antithetical to biblical doctrine and our first loyalty must be to the Lord God and His Word. Where we now find ourselves is back to the topic at hand, and the symbolic meaning behind the right hand and forehead found in Revelation. The Leftists in our nation have managed to dupe many professing Christians into supporting them despite the obvious fact that they are antichrist to their very core. If ever you found yourself wondering how it is that Christian people can be fooled into supporting anything satanic, here it is. Manufacture an injustice, create a convincing false equivalence, lie like a rug on the floor, and tell people that opposition makes them monsters.

            The Mark of the Beast is adherence to the Antichrist ideology, being willing to fight and die for it, and choosing to stand against the Lord and His justice. It does not get simpler than that. Do I believe that we are in the end times? I do not know. Jesus said that only the Father knows the time of the end, but my instincts tell me “No”. I believe that we are bearing witness to the death of our society, but I could not begin to guess what will follow. As much as I might wish I did, I do not have all the answers.

[1] Paine, Albert B, “Mark Twain, a Biography”

[2] “Army splits with West Point grad who touted communist revolt”,

The Authority of Jesus

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: 29For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.~Matthew 7:28-29

The most remarkable thing here is that Jesus’ audience was taken aback by the way He spoke because He did not teach after the fashion of the Scribes, Pharisees, or Sadducees. He taught after the manner of someone who had the authority to make and dictate changes to the Law as it was understood in that day.

The way the Scribes taught was by rote. They presented Scripture and then taught according to the prevailing rabbinic teachings and opinions. Each and every one of them taught through the lens of their favorite rabbi’s opinions, and Jesus did not. For people who were accustomed to being taught in one way, their encounter with Jesus must have been a bit of a shock, because He came at it from a direction that was never before seen.

They expected something along the lines of, “The Word says this, and Rav so-and-so says that this is what it means”, and what they got was “you have heard” and “But I say”. These are not the words of someone who is rendering an opinion based in Scripture, but rather someone speaking as if they were the source of that Scripture. This is not to say that He changed Scripture, but that He spoke as the One who laid it all down.

This is one of the things that brings the whole Sermon into focus. In effect, what is happening is that God took it upon Himself to come down here to our level, and demonstrate for us how to live according to His Law. He then took the opportunity to expound on the topic of the Law, showing through His teaching what He had originally intended when the Law was laid down.

In legal terms, there is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. The difference between the two is that the letter of the law sticks to a strict, word for word, line by line, interpretation of the law, while the spirit of the law focuses more on the intent behind the crafting of a law. In the spirit of the Law, one must know how and when to show mercy, and where to apply it.

When it came to God’s Law, the religiopolitical leaders of Judea excelled at following it to the letter, but did so devoid of the spirit behind it. As a result, not only did they think that their methods would bring them righteousness apart from the Spirit, but their interpretation and application of the Law tended to be uneven, heavyhanded, and unjust.

In many places throughout Scripture, judges and leaders are commanded to be just in their decisions. Those who are unjust are excoriated and condemned for their harsh and unjust attitudes. One example is Psalm 82, which says,

God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.

2How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.

3Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.

4Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

5They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.

6I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

7But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.

8Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.

First, it is important to note something about Psalm 82:1, and that is that we see a double meaning for the Hebrew אֱלֹהִ֣ים (elohim). In this case, it is rendered “gods”, as opposed to its usual use in Scripture (as reference to YHWH), and this is important because it is a direct reference to judges and the Holy mandate they bear as representatives of the Lord God.

When you look at verses two through four what appears is an indictment against the judges for their harsh and unjust treatment of those they should be working the hardest to protect and serve. The Lord demands to know how much longer they intend to continue in that way, and then He seeks to bring to their minds what they ought to be doing.

He reminds them to defend the poor and fatherless, deliver the poor and needy, and rid them out of the hand of the wicked. This is their sacred duty before the Lord who placed them in that position, and it is clear by this that they are failing in that charge because they have become arrogant, haughty, narrow-minded, and judgmental.

What has happened in Jesus’ day is that the judges in Judea, the Pharisees and Sadducees, have turned into the types of judges that the Lord excoriated in Psalm 82. This had an impact on the way that they taught, on what they taught, and how they chose to apply it. This was one of the reasons why people were so astonished at the way He delivered the lessons in the Sermon. He came in without arrogance, pretense, and spoke simply as the One who wrote the Law and placed in in the hearts of all Mankind. None of them were prepared for that.

The House on the Rock

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.~Matthew 7:24-27

As we near the end of this Sermon, what we begin to see is a mixture of review and the clear statement that following Jesus’ teachings will be what leads us to eternal life in His Kingdom. This is because one must place their trust and belief in Him to properly follow His teachings. As was found in Matthew 5, someone following these teachings must recognize their own wretched condition, must place their full trust in the Lord, must recognize their own insufficiency regarding Salvation, and that they must avoid acting outside of the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will first review some of what Jesus taught in the preceding passages and how they relate to this passage, and then we will address a misconception regarding the teaching contained therein.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus not only makes some bold statements regarding what qualities are required to be one of His followers, but He makes them in a format that is startling. Jesus presents the Beatitudes using a Jewish method known as a b’racha[1]. These are blessings commonly heard in Shabbat seders, and other Jewish observances, all over the world. The b’racha usually begins with,

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אַדֹנָ-י אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם

“Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu, Melech haOlam”

“Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the universe.”

This is a style of prayer that had been in use for several centuries before the birth of Jesus, which means that it would have been remarkably familiar to those listening. Jesus’ use of this format in the Beatitudes likely would have caused some confusion and questioning as these types of prayers are not usually offered in relation to people, at least not in this context. In effect, what He did by offering the b’rachot in the manner that He did, was set His followers apart from the rest and set them up to become a people apart. This is partly why many Jews, Messianic and otherwise, have repeatedly and accurately made the claim that Jesus did not come to establish a new religion. Nor is this a sentiment that we Christians ought to disagree with, as Christianity was very plainly meant to be the completion of Judaism. I have certainly found myself taking a much closer look at the Jewish roots of the Christian religion because of this series, and certainly found a much deeper meaning to the things that Jesus taught.

What we cannot ever lose sight of is that Jesus IS the Jewish Messiah, sent to bring a New Covenant to the world, one which includes the Gentiles as well as the House of David. It is for this reason that no good Christian can ever separate Christianity from its Jewish roots. To do so is to rob Jesus of His place in Scripture. He was predicted throughout the Tanakh, from Genesis to Malachi, and those predictions came to fruition in the First Century in the person of Yeshua (Jesus). This is as inescapable as it is profound.

What we find in the b’rachot given by Jesus in the Beatitudes is that His followers must arrive at the conclusion that they are bereft of hope before the Lord God apart from the atoning work of the Messiah. They must always place their faith in the promise of Salvation from the Lord Jesus, through His blood on the Cross. They must be willing to live by His commands and die by them, too. They must be willing to stand in the Truth no matter the cost, even if it means enduring horrendous persecution, torture, and death. Finally, His followers must set themselves apart from the world as a peculiar people whose ways are not those of the world. We must honor God’s Law, as Jesus stated that His intent was not to abolish it.

We must also be ever vigilant, constantly examining and testing those who would teach us to ensure that their teachings are firmly grounded in the Word, while discarding the false teachings that the Enemy will inject into our midst. We are to dedicate as much time avoiding hypocrisy and being judgmental as we are to avoiding false teachers and heresy. Finally, we are to ground ourselves in the Word, filter everything through the Word, and make all judgments through the lens of the Word.

Not only are we to ground ourselves in the Word, but we are to rely on it in times of struggle. When Jesus makes the comparison between His teachings and that of the wise man who built his house on the rock, He is saying that His teaching is to BE the rock that forms the foundation of our lives! If the rock (the Word) is the foundation upon which your house stands, then it will weather any storm without falling in. No matter what, look to the Lord, trust the Lord, rely upon the Lord. He is the rock.

He emphasizes this point by offering up the contrast, the foolish man who heard His Word and chose to ignore it by building his home on the sand. This is a brilliant illustration when you think about it. If ever you have walked on sand, you know that it is a bit more difficult than walking on solid ground because each step you take involves the sand shifting under your feet, and you burn yourself out by constantly having to compensate. Sand is also easily blown on the wind, carried in whichever direction it pleases. It makes for a horrible foundation as it cannot ever be relied on for stability.

This brings me to a misconception relating to this passage. I am not sure where the misconception came from, or who to attribute it to, but some believe that the two contrasting men presented in this passage, the wise man, and the fool, are both believers. The implication is that hearing the Word is all that is needed to make one a believer, which could not be farther from the truth! If you hear the Gospel, consider the Gospel, and ultimately reject the Gospel, then you are NOT a believer! You are the fool who built their house on the sand rather than the rock, and to believe otherwise is the height of folly.

How can I say this? Because Jesus says it right here, and the other New Testament writers echoed it. James stated that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). This is what Paul was referencing when he wrote about the Fruit of the Spirit (Romans 8:9-11; Galatians 5:16-26). The underlying theme has always been one of exclusivity to Christ! You are either with Him or you are against Him (Matthew 12:22-30). There is no middle road, and to suggest otherwise can only be called blasphemy! Jesus is the rock to which we are to cling when the storms of life batter on our door! There is no other we can turn to. It is Him, or no one. The answer is never to be found within ourselves, as we are unreliable at best.

When one makes the decision to turn to Him, to make Him the foundation of their lives, it is the Spirit that fills one with the desire to honor God’s Law. It is through Him that we find in ourselves the need, the desire, to do what is right and pleasing in His sight. Personally, I like the way James laid it out,

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (James 2:14-17)

The best way I can think of to paraphrase this statement is the American idiom, “If you talk the talk, you better walk the walk.” If you claim to be a believer but never act as if He gave you a Law to follow, then you are not a believer, you are a hypocrite. You will instead enter eternity hearing, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”. If you think I am being harsh, understand that I cannot be harsh enough! If you have not accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, if you have not placed your full unreserved trust in His promise of Salvation, and if the Spirit has not taken root in your inmost being, then you are lost! Hopeless. Completely without hope of any kind, because there is nothing you can say or do apart from Him that will save you when you stand before the Judge on that day.

Jesus was not ambiguous in His teachings. He could not have been clearer. Follow Him, or not. Honor His Word, or not. Keep His Law, or not. There is no middle of the road, the presentation in this passage is clearly either/or, which means that He leaves us with only two options, and the choice is inescapable. As you have no way of knowing for certain where and when you will die, I can see no reason why this choice should be anything but paramount to you, so choose wisely.

[1] B’racha: a prayer or benediction offered during certain prayers and at certain times.

Random Parenting Moments

It has occurred to me that living in a house full of loud, intelligent, opinionated people can lend itself to certain bits of comedic gold. Here is just a short list of the moments that have recently presented themselves:

  1. Baptizing toy dinosaurs in dirty mop water is a thing. (six-year-old)
  2. Cra-Z-Art Washable glue sticks work well as Chapstick. (three-year-old)
  3. Spiders are scary enough to run through the house yelling about a spider. (six-year-old)
  4. Capturing a bumblebee is a very bad idea. Capturing it and bringing it into the house in a container for the parents to freak out over is even worse. Being chased across the yard by an angry, just released bumblebee is amusing to everyone, except for the kid who made poor life choices. (nine-year-old)
  5. Banditry is a daily event in our house. I’m sure there’s a black market for apples and fruit juice, I just haven’t been able to bust it open, yet. (all. of. them.)
  6. Anything can be used as body armor, at any time. This includes random buckets, safety glasses, nitrile gloves, and just about anything that will stay on their bodies. (“I didn’t know IdiotCon was going on” 14-year-old to nine-year-old wearing makeshift body armor)
  7. Magnifying glasses and nine-year-old boys are a bad combination.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings…

The Narrow Gate & A Fruit and its Tree

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

15Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.~Matthew 7:13-23

You may have noticed that I have taken two separate sections and combined them into this one overall section. If you are following along with your own Bible, then you certainly have noted this. The reason I have chosen to do this has to do with the fact that they are most definitely linked. While scholars and compilers have separated them under two different headings, this is clearly one block of instruction and that is how I have chosen to present it. In this lesson, Jesus presents a strong statement about how we are to walk as believers, and it is a message that I believe has been intentionally watered down by the modern American Church.

The first thing that came to mind when I began studying this passage was the AC/DC song, “Highway to Hell”, which is an appropriate description. If you were to consider the lyrics of the song, I would be willing to bet that the writer had been brought up Christian and had a solid understanding of this passage. Here are some examples of what I mean,

“Livin’ easy

Lovin’ free

Season ticket on a one way ride

Askin’ nothin’

Leave me be

Takin’ everythin’ in my stride

Don’t need reason

Don’t need rhyme

Ain’t nothin’ that I’d rather do

Goin’ down

Party time

My friends are gonna be there too

No stop signs

Speed limit

Nobody’s gonna slow me down

Like a wheel

Gonna spin it

Nobody’s gonna mess me around

Hey, Satan

Payin’ my dues

Playin’ in a rockin’ band

Hey, mamma

Look at me

I’m on the way to the promised land”

What is being described in those lyrics is the wide road to destruction, and it is being described in a celebratory manner. When verse 13 refers to the way that leads to destruction as being broad, what I envision is a 20-lane freeway with no speed limits, no off-ramps, no cops, and nothing but on-ramps, which is how it is presented in this song. This image is how I picture what most humans would describe as total freedom, especially given the famous and iconic nature of this song in our lexicon. One would be hard-pressed to find people over 30 who have not heard this song. I certainly liked this song a long time ago, but that was before I came to know Jesus.

This song, and the verse that very plainly inspired it, serve as a picture of why the way is broad. It needs to be to accommodate the sheer number of people traveling it straight to their destruction. If the narrow gate and the narrow way are what leads to life, and the broad way leads to death, then most people have chosen death and destruction over life. This is evidenced by popular culture’s fixation on the celebration of sexual immorality, moral relativism, abortion, divorce, substance abuse, and violence. They celebrate these things as if they are good and healthy, never mind the fact that they very obviously are not. These things are detrimental to the functioning of a society, they lead to all manner of death and decay, and they celebrate this. It is almost as if they are sitting on a tree branch, busily using a saw to cut the branch off, and declaring all the while that what is about to happen will not be harmful in any way.

Meanwhile, society at large looks upon the death and decay and continue to regard it as life affirming. The Lord spoke to this when He said, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20) Traveling the broad road requires doing exactly what is described in this verse, declaring good that which is evil, and doing this means that one must reject everything that the Lord offers by way of Salvation. Woe to those who do this, as it will lead them to nothing but death and destruction! If God only wants what is best for us, then it is only logical to assume that these things are forbidden for a reason. Defiance of His commands then becomes an exercise in futility wrapped around a massive dose of self-destruction. God will not force anyone into His Kingdom that is not interested in being there and being in relationship with Him!

Conversely, the image that comes to mind for the narrow way is quite the opposite, a barely discernable game trail that leads into the woods. In his poem “The Road Not Taken”, Robert Frost makes an interesting comparison between the two roads,

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Given that imagery, it is not hard to see why the way to destruction is so appealing to most everyone, as it is the most appealing to our flesh. It takes a special kind of person, one who is willing to deny their flesh, to look at a barely visible game trail in the middle of the woods and decide that following it is a great idea. Yet, this is what Jesus’ words conjure up when He says, “and few there be that find it”.

More than once I have had someone tell me that they believe that all roads lead to the top of the mountain, meaning that they believe that all the world’s religions are the same, and that they all lead to the same place. Setting aside the obvious logical fallacies one must believe to espouse that idea, the fact is that this idea requires one to ignore the obvious and fundamental differences between the religions of the world, along with the fact that this idea is relativistic in nature. The assumption is that all religions are the same, and that the only discernable differences come down to “window dressing”, which is to say, unimportant externals. They also like to use the reasoning that there is only one God, but that He is called by many different names and that this is how the religions of the world should relate to each other, as possessing differing perspectives on the same deity.

Where this relates to the topic at hand has to do with the fact that Jesus is making a very exclusive claim here. The way to the Kingdom is through a narrow gate and an equally narrow way. If the path that leads to the Kingdom is that narrow, and only a precious few will find it, then one can logically conclude that this is an example of Jesus making a claim to exclusivity. It is only those who walk the narrow way who find their way into the Kingdom of God, and Jesus is that narrow way, as evidenced by what He said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” If He is the only Way, and I know that He is, then the narrow gate and the narrow way can only be found through Him. This then would lead one to conclude that there is only one road to the top of the mountain, and all other roads lead to a pit in the center of a dark, lifeless, and desolate valley.

Take note of something. Throughout the entire Sermon, Jesus has been carefully laying down what that narrow path looks like. He has been illustrating for all to see the image of the narrow way that leads to righteousness, and that narrow way begins with trusting in God, believing in God, being changed by Him, and following Him no matter the cost (Matt. 5:3-12). He has shown through His teaching that mindset and motivation matters, that we are to be led by the Spirit and not our Flesh. That our choices must be made for His glory and not our own, and that our own benefit must not even BE a consideration. We must be all about His glory, His righteousness, and gratitude for His choice to bring us Salvation even though there is not a single human on this planet that is deserving in any way.

The comparison is an either-or type of comparison, either you follow the way that leads to life, or you follow the way that leads to destruction. There cannot be a third way, a neutral way, or a way that we can devise amongst ourselves, there are only two ways, and the way you choose is entirely up to you. Do you choose Life, or do you choose death?

Jesus then drives the point home further by providing the following warning, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves”. Consider the implication of this warning. In the Greek, the word used for “false prophets”, ψευδοπροφητῶν (pseudoprophētōn), translates as “a spurious prophet, i.e., pretended foreteller or religious impostor”. There are several men and women who spring immediately to mind, Joel Osteen, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, etc. To be sure, these people and their ilk are dangerous false teachers and false prophets, however, these are not necessarily the types that Jesus is referring to. They are too obvious.

The kind that Jesus is referring to are much more subtle. These are people who come in speaking the same language, who are craftier in the way that they twist Scripture to suit their needs. I have long said that Satan would never appear to us in his true form, whichever twisted form that might be. He will not ever come to us in that manner, but rather in a wholesome appearance, in an expensive suit, clean, speaking in a manner that conveys expertise, wisdom, knowledge, and certainty. He will come up alongside you speaking words of encouragement, soothing your fears, and speaking to your flesh in very subtle ways. He will use all of this to turn you away from Jesus’ teachings so that you will find yourself careening down the broad road and enjoying every second up until the moment when it is too late.

He then gives us a clue as to how to determine who is a false prophet or a false teacher, and who is the real thing. This goes back to the discussion on judgment, in that we cannot determine for ourselves who is true and who is false without judging them. He says, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” in verse 16, and this is the key. You will be able to identify them by the way that they walk the walk and talk the talk. You will be able to determine for yourself who to listen to and who to oppose, not ignore, but oppose. As I said, we are at war, and the command is to contend for the faith (Jude 1:3), not to sit idly by as wolves in sheep’s clothing lead people off to their destruction! It would be the height of indifference to sit back and allow others to be led off without a fight, and indifference, not hate, is the opposite of love. It would be unloving to keep silent as would-be believers are led off to slaughter.

When someone stands on the Truth, speaks out the Truth in love, and remains uncompromising about the Truth, they are fighting for the faith, contending for the faith, and doing it all for the glory of the Lord and His Kingdom. This is what Jesus is commanding when He tells us to be aware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, not only so that we may know from whom we are to run, but so that we know who fight in His Name. This is what Satan fears the most, a Christianity that has remembered not only its own strength but how to use it effectively.

How then are we to determine who is true and who is false? The standard is found all through Scripture, but nowhere more clearly spelled out than in Deuteronomy, chapters 13 and 18,

If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, 2And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; 3Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. 5And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.” (Deut. 13:1-5)

But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. 21And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? 22When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Deut. 18:20-22)

The standard is clear. If the teacher who comes to you teaches you to follow another god, if they speak falsely in the Name of the Lord, then you should oppose them at every turn.

How does a modern false prophet teach you to follow another god? They will present a false version of Jesus to you, ascribe a false nature to God, and anthropomorphize God in such a way as to make Him seem more like us than the thrice Holy, thrice perfect, and thrice omnipotent Creator of the universe. They will turn God into a cosmic pez dispenser who will wait on us hand and foot, who desires nothing for us but to be wealthy, healthy, and happy. They will turn Jesus into some meek and mild, wishy-washy wise man who ran afoul of the religious authorities of the day because His teachings were too nice, too radical, and a threat to the authority of those leaders.

They will take that false image and use it to teach you that you are to avoid judging everyone no matter what they do, unless the one you are judging is declaring the Truth of the Gospel in a way that is uncompromising. They will teach you that God does not want you to call out Sin, but rather to assume that the “believers” living in a carnal manner are just “carnal Christians” and that they are saved, too. They will teach you that a moment of heartfelt sincerity during the recitation of some version of the Sinner’s Prayer will not only bring you eternal Salvation, but will also rubber stamp any form of carnality you indulge in after said profession of faith!

They will tell you that Jesus loved and accepted everyone, regardless of their misdeeds, their religious beliefs, or any other things that Scripture says God hates! They will insist that Jesus accepted all no matter what, and we should, too! They will declare things Holy that God declared an abomination, they will bedeck their churches and their altars in rainbow flags and declare that homosexuals, transgenders, and the polyamorous are not only acceptable to God, but that He welcomes them into His houses of worship without need of repentance. In fact, they will do all they can to avoid calling out Sin, no matter the form it takes, so why bother repenting at all?

Their teachings flow forth from their pulpits with the intent of stripping all meaning away from Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, so that people will be fooled into taking that broad way to destruction. Once, when asked about preaching about Sin, Joel Osteen commented that he does not address Sin in his sermons because the people in his congregation already know that they are sinners! No, they do not! They know no such thing. They look at the criminals running rampant on the streets, selling drugs, selling their bodies, shooting people and they decide that THOSE are the sinners, not them. How can you get past that reasoning without first making people aware of the fact that they are deluded about their sinful nature?! Sin must be called out, and these false teachers go out of their way to ensure that never happens. Just pray that little prayer, write some date in the back of your Bible, and slam your foot down on the gas as you go careening down the Highway to Hell, singing excitedly the whole way about how God loves you so much that He wants you to have your best life now. That is how you discern for yourself who the wolves in sheep’s clothing are, because their teachings will only lead to the fire that is never ending.

Finally, Jesus states that not everyone who calls out to Him on the day of judgment will be known to Him. He is not referring to some random people who never accepted Him, He is referring to people who claimed to be His followers. These are people who stood at the front of the sanctuary worshipping with all their might, who spoke of Jesus often, who did great works in His Name. These were the people who made professions of faith in some church service after reciting the Sinner’s Prayer, and then went on and lived like they were never given a Law to follow. These are the people who accuse people of being legalists when they insist on honoring the Law of God. They will claim that Christians are no longer under the Law of God, and will actively discourage anyone who seeks to follow the Law in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord because doing so somehow negates the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. In all, these people will be cast into the lake of fire after Jesus says, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”.

Ask, Seek, Knock

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 9Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

12Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.~Matthew 7:7-12

One of the more interesting elements of this passage is the fact that the message contained is presented in a trinitarian fashion. Jesus presents us with three different ways that we may come to Him in supplication, by asking, seeking, and knocking. The intent here is to encourage us to chase after Him with earnestness, perseverance, and steadfastness. As with the Beatitudes, we are exhorted to hunger and thirst after Him in a way that most of us cannot fathom in our modern world. We must pursue Him and His Righteousness as a man dying of hunger or thirst, with every fiber of our being. We must chase after him as a drowning man after a personal flotation device. He is more essential to us than oxygen, food, or water. He is Life, and nothing else should matter to us beyond seeking relationship with Him and honoring His Word and His Commands.

The statement made in this passage is that what is asked for, what is sought for, will be given. However, there is a point that must be made here. What is asked for is determined by whether we are living in the Spirit or if we are living in the Flesh, the Pneuma[1] (πνεῦμα) or the Sarx[2] (σάρξ). We find ourselves back on the topic of motivation and why it is so important. Are your requests coming from a selfish place, or are you asking the Lord to provide you with your daily bread? Are your motives based in being pleasing to the Lord, or are your motives based out of a desire to serve yourself? These things play as much a role in WHAT you ask for as His will plays in WHAT He gives you. This point cannot be made often enough, or with enough fervor because this is what demonstrates whether you are in the process of sanctification or if you are a pretender.

Another important element to asking, seeking, and knocking is whether it is His desire to give what you have asked for. In one of his songs, Garth Brooks opines that some of God’s greatest gifts to us is unanswered prayers. It is an interesting sentiment, but I think that the sentiment may be a bit off in perspective. When we do not receive what it is that we are petitioning the Lord for it is not an “unanswered prayer”, but rather a very clear “No”. That “No” happens according to His will, His desire, and His plan. What we often mistake for a prayer left unanswered is a “No” in reality, and we must not ever fall into the trap of assuming that this “No” happens for anything that is in any way bad for us. Frankly, some of God’s greatest gifts to us have been “No” and forget the idea of unanswered prayers.

The Apostle Paul understood this idea and expounded on it in his second letter to the Corinthians,

Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 6For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. 7And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:5-10)

Take note of the fact that he states that he sought relief from this “thorn in the flesh” three times and was told “No”. Furthermore, the reason given for the Lord’s answer is that we find our greatest strength (Christ) in our moments of weakness. No matter the cost, His grace is sufficient for us. This is one of the elements that makes clear where our motives come from and why I said that motivation matters. When you are motivated by the Spirit you will ask according to His will. When you are motivated by the flesh, then you will ask according to your Flesh. Of the two, only one is acceptable for a genuine follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As we go further into the passage, Jesus presents a few rhetorical questions. In these questions He makes the point that whatever it is that the Lord gives to us, it will be for our benefit. In the manner that He addresses it, He also takes a moment and drives home the point that we need to trust the Lord in His provision no matter how it would appear to us. His questions bring up the fact that human fathers, even those who are the most unloving, would not give something worse than what is asked for. How then can we ever look at God’s providence as anything other than the greatest gift anyone could ever give us? It makes no difference if we are poor, sick, infirm, or if we lose our lives in service to the Lord, His providence is always the greatest gift we could ever receive because it is His mercy, His grace, and His provision that ensures our entrance into the Kingdom, and not anything that we say or do. If the gifts from a father have the potential for being good, how much better then would the gifts from our heavenly Father be?

As we arrive at the end of the passage, the Lord Jesus gives us a final command. This command is one that is commonly known, though people might not recognize it immediately. This is the Golden Rule, most rendered as, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. More modern translations simply give this as, “Treat others the same way that you want them to treat you”. Furthermore, Jesus makes this command something of greater importance by stating that this is the law and the prophets. To sum up, show people the kindness, care, dignity, and respect that you would want them to show you. Be mindful of the things you ask of the Lord, beware of your motivations when asking, be prepared for the answer to be “No”, and trust that He will not give a “No” to something that is for your greater good. Never compromise the Truth.

[1] Pneuma (πνεῦμα): wind, breath, spirit. (Strong’s Greek 4151)

[2] Sarx (σάρξ): flesh, body, human nature, materiality; kindred. (Strong’s Greek 4561)

Do Not Judge

Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

6Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.~Matthew 7:1-6

It is no mystery why I regard Matthew 7:1 as one of the most misunderstood, misrepresented, and misquoted verses in the whole of Scripture. This single verse has repeatedly been used to silence opposition to many of the varied sinful activities that our society has sought to make mainstream. When speaking out against things like homosexuality, fornication, abortion, and immodesty, which you must, you are highly likely to be hit with this verse to silence you. All most need to do is to simply repeat the opening line of Matthew 7:1, “Judge not” and many will simply shut their mouths because they know how the remainder of the verse goes. The premise is that one must always withhold judgment, which is a feat in and of itself, but must be done because, who are we to judge, right?

By virtue of attending a liberal United Methodist church when I was younger, I was brought up believing that Matthew 7:1 was a direct command from Jesus to never judge others for their words, deeds, and beliefs. I have seen that conversation take place and ignorantly agreed with the person making that argument because I did not want to be seen as hypocritical and unloving. As the saying goes, why would I hate someone for sinning differently from me, right? Of course, the main issue with that argument is that it can only be true if one were to rip Matthew 7:1 entirely out of context, and if they were to assume a meaning of love and judgment that does not fit with reality.

I will begin by pointing out that using a single verse as a standalone is not typically going to be accurate or effective. In fact, when it comes to reading or trying to understand Scripture, I strongly discourage studying one verse at a time. What you should be doing is studying the entire passage, chapter, and book to really understand what the writer meant when they penned their work. You should also be reading related writings in other books of the Bible to gain a much fuller understanding of what is being said in a single verse. Scripture interprets Scripture not Man. Do not forget that the book/chapter/verse system presently employed did not exist when the Bible was written and compiled. It was developed as a handy reference tool about 1,000 years ago, and it is extremely easy to rip a specific verse out of context as a result. You cannot ever overestimate the importance of context when engaging in exegesis[1] and using one verse to justify a doctrinal or ecclesiastical[2] position is an all too often committed mistake in the Church because that is not how the Bible was written. Matthew 7:1-6 serves as a prime example of the kind of mistake that one can make when you base an entire teaching around a single verse.

When applied using the common understanding of the verse, what you get is a form of moral indifference which leads to such idioms as “follow your truth”, “follow your heart”, and “live and let live”. While these things sound great on the surface, what you find underneath is an insidious ideology that leads to death, destruction, and pain. This ideology lends itself naturally to Relativism[3], a belief system that rests on the idea that truth and morality are subjective and based entirely on the whim of the person or society wielding them for their own benefit. The final product of this type of thinking has always been a form of moral cowardice that is illogical, irrational, and prone to atrocity as now many moral absolutes are traded for feel-good platitudes that are as morally bankrupt as they are incomprehensible.

Take Moral Relativism for example. This ideology teaches that morality is subjective and to be determined by the society and the individual and assumes that everyone will gravitate toward what can only be described as an external objective morality that everyone instinctively knows and displays in perfect altruism for the good of all. No, I am not kidding. Yes, this is a paraphrasing of the basic idea that is moral relativism, and I am sure many adherents may well foam at the mouth in objection to this paraphrasing. However, the cognitive dissonance[4] that comes with this idea is enough to reduce just about any Classically educated individual into fits of mental gymnastics that rival anything found in the Olympics. Yet, most humans planetwide have signed on to this logical nightmare with disastrous results, to the tune of more than 120 million people murdered by their own governments in the 20th Century thanks to men like Iosef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Tze Dong, Pohl Pot, the Kim dynasty in North Korea, Fidel Castro, and any number of other dictatorial madmen who operate in a world entirely devoid of moral absolutes external to themselves.

It is moral relativism that allows people to devalue other people to justify committing any number of atrocities like the Holocaust, and yet, people simply ignore that uncomfortable fact in favor of a system that grants them what they think is total freedom. This ideology allows people to continue to deny the existence of God so that they may continue to do whatever it is that they wish. It is moral relativism that allows people to consistently mistake indifference for love, to the detriment of all.

Now, we come to the passage itself. As I have already said, Matthew 7:1, like every other verse in the Bible, was never meant to be read as a standalone. That is not how the Bible was written. Given that, what one must do is read the entire passage surrounding the verse to gain some idea of what is intended. In this case, what Jesus is saying is NOT that we are forbidden from judging people, but rather that we are forbidden from being harsh and hypocritical in our judgments. Furthermore, we are also forbidden from condemning the individual as that job falls solely to God, whose perfect judgment will be executed on the day of judgment apart from any efforts on the part of Man.

All too often I have heard people say, “Only God can judge me”, to which I usually reply, “That should terrify you”. The reason why that should terrify them is that they are usually saying that only God can judge them as a way of silencing their “haters” who keep bringing up the fact that what they are usually doing is immoral and/or outright stupid. When you use a phrase like that to shield yourself from being reminded that you are doing the wrong thing, then you have abandoned all reason, all logic, and all objective morality. What will follow can only be described as pain and misery culminating in a face-to-face meeting with the Almighty that will not end well for the person facing the Lord. Those doing the reminding are simply doing what is right, and this is not a violation of Matthew 7:1.

Look at the verses that follow Matthew 7:1 and what you will find is commands to judge, which seems like a contradiction until you consider the difference between judgment[5] and being judgmental[6]. Verses 3 through 6 are commands to judge, with verses 3 through 5 showing that we must be fair and honest in our assessment. Good judgment requires that we be fair, honest, and equitable, while being judgmental would be jumping to conclusions, and making snap decisions based on limited or incorrect information. Before judging your brother, you must be sure to take care of your own failings. Step one in doing so is to acknowledge that your failings exist.

Furthermore, we humans judge constantly. Every time you conclude that you like or dislike a person, you have judged them as a person. You have judged that their personality and character as a person is either something you want in your life, or out of it. When walking down the street, every person you walk past has been judged as safe enough to walk past, and any time you have used avoidance behavior like crossing the street to avoid walking past someone you regard as a potential threat, you have judged them. It is right, normal, and practical to judge, but there must be a standard by which we are to judge, and this is what Jesus presents in His teaching on the subject. As we move through this chapter, we will go further into the standards by which we are to judge properly as laid out by the Lord Jesus so that we may be better able to exercise good judgment while avoiding being judgmental.

As we come to the end, I would like to take a moment and zoom in on verse six. In this verse, we are admonished not to share that which is holy with dogs or swine. What does Jesus mean here? When He refers to dogs and swine, He is referring to people who outright reject Him as Truth. In the First Century, dogs and swine were used as words to describe Gentiles, however, it goes deeper than that. These are the people who choose to be wicked in every sense of the word. They are perverse, sensual, corrupt, uncontrolled, and profane. The command then is to not share the Gospel with people who would be violent, abusive, debased, or unable to fully comprehend what it is that is being shared with them. The question then becomes, “How are we to determine who is a dog, who is a swine, and who is safe to share the Gospel with, if we are somehow forbidden from judging?” Satan is nothing if not clever in the ways that he twists Scripture, and this is a pitfall that we must avoid at all costs.

[1] Exegesis: the detailed explanation of a piece of writing, especially religious writing.

[2] Ecclesiastical: connected with the Christian Church.

[3] Relativism: the belief that truth and right and wrong cannot be judged generally but can be judged only in relation to other things, such as your personal situation.

[4] Cognitive Dissonance: the state of having thoughts that are not consistent, especially relating to beliefs, behaviour, and attitudes.

[5] Judgment: the ability to make sensible decisions after carefully considering the best thing to do.

[6] Judgmental: judging people and criticizing them too quickly.

Do Not Worry

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

34Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.~Matthew 6:25-34

Before beginning this section, I would like to take a moment and go over a couple of words that are relevant to this subject, and those words are avarice and greed. The main thrust to the teachings of Matthew 6 have been centered around the avoidance of avarice and greed, as these traits are both idolatrous and signify a lack of trust in the Lord. These traits also have the effect of precluding any chance at a relationship with God. As Jesus has shown thus far, we must be humble, meek, unpretentious, honest, faithful, self-controlled, loving, and unconceited. Avarice and greed make these traits and attitudes genuinely impossible because they require us to behave in the exact opposite.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, avarice and greed are defined in the following ways,

Avarice: extreme desire for wealth.

Greed: a strong desire for more wealth, possessions, power, etc. than a person needs.

Thus far, Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount have included commands to not seek out material wealth for the sake of having it. In fact, we are not to concern ourselves with the acquisition of wealth at all. As we make our way through life, we are not to worry over how and where we will be fed, we are only to trust that the Lord will provide for us according to His plan and His will. If that plan includes the acquisition of material wealth, then so be it, He will use it and us to whichever ends He sees fit. If not, then that is His will, too. The key point here is that we are to invest complete trust in the Lord and no others for our provision. Consider what Job said when he lost everything,

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,

21And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:20-21)

While I regard the modern interpretation of Job as being a bit off, it is clear by his words that we have absolutely nothing good in our lives that does not come from God. As such, avarice and greed are exactly what Jesus had been speaking against, because these character traits keep us from understanding this important truth. We exist entirely at His whim, according to His plans and His desires, and for no other reason. We would not exist if it were not for Him, and this is something that we should regard as profoundly important.

Greed and avarice become a massive stumbling block that prevents us from internalizing this concept, and these are traits found in abundance among the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes. It was also what led to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus for a mere 30 pieces of silver. Greed and avarice are why seeking out material wealth would make it nearly impossible for rich men to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. It is one thing to be wealthy because the Lord saw fit to place you in that situation, and another to pursue wealth as if it were your god. We must not forget that the Lord forbade us from placing other gods before Him, and anything we place in a position of importance above Him makes it an object of our worship. It then becomes our god. A prime example of this is found in Revelation 3:14-22, which is the Letter to the Church in Laodicea,

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 21To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”            

Why would Laodicea come to mind? Consider what is stated in verse 17, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing”. In this, what has happened is that someone who is wealthy is less likely to understand that all that they have, all that they are, and all that they will ever be is purely at the mercy and whim of the Lord. When I referred to the three types of wealthy people, the rich and the wealthy were representative of the Laodiceans. That they were wealthy was not the issue, it was that they believed that they needed nothing from anyone because of that wealth. How can anyone submit to the Lord if they do not first understand that they need Him and that they would not have anything if it were not for Him? Therefore, the Laodiceans came to mind, and I should point out that the city once known as Laodicea ad Lycum, the city mentioned in Revelation, no longer exists. Not only is this once wealthy and well-appointed city no longer inhabited, but the ruins are not regarded with any particular interest. The fact is that the Church suffered the same fate as the city, and the reason why the Church at Laodicea no longer exists is something we ought to keep in mind.

The Lamp of the Body

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.~Matthew 6:22-24

This passage is really a continuation of the previous one, in that it continues the idea that we must keep our eyes fixed on the Lord, His Kingdom, and not on the lust of the flesh, the greed of the world, covetousness, and the consumption of all that is ungodly and immoral. The Lord Jesus continues to drive the point home by way of illustration, in this case with the eye. His point also seems to be that our focus must be unwavering, as being unfocused can and will cause issues with one’s walk.

As human beings, we are primarily visual in nature. For most of us, our strongest sense is that of sight. To be sure, some humans are either born with weak eyes, or are like me, and discovering that eyesight tends to diminish with age. However, Homo Sapiens is a species that relies primarily on eyesight to survive in the world, which is what makes Jesus’ example even more appropriate. He uses the sense that humans rely on first to help us understand what our mindset must be. It must be one of unwavering focus and clarity, we must never lose sight of who we are, what we are, and where we are going.

This reminds me of a trick I once learned when I needed to maintain my balance as a child. If you pick a fixed point in front of you and focus on that while walking or standing on something unsteady, then you will be better able to maintain your balance. Using this trick, I can do things like stand on one foot while putting a sock on the other foot (useful when you are getting dressed but do not have anywhere to sit). However, if you are looking around and not focused on that fixed point, then you will lose your balance and fall off.

This works great for doing things like walking a tightrope, walking on a beam, or a log bridge. When your eyes are focused intently on a destination point, and you have blocked out all other external stimuli, you will be rock steady. This same principle applies to the Gospel. If you are singly focused on the Truth of the Gospel, and your eye is fixed on following the Lord Jesus, then you will be fully balanced. This is the main thrust of what Jesus taught here. Keep your eye focused on the destination (the Kingdom), block out all other stimuli (the world, the flesh, and Satan), while you walk the tightrope (the Way that is Jesus), and you will be in the Kingdom before you know it.

This is where focus is essential. As with the previous section, dealing with the laying up of treasures here on earth, the idea is to grow your riches in heaven. If your focus is somewhere other than the Kingdom and being pleasing in the sight of the Lord, then the chances that you will stray are high. Therefore, Jesus teaches that if you lose sight of the goal, you will fall prey to the enemy.

Not too long ago, I came into possession of a book entitled, “Praying Clear Through”[1], and what this book has to say is truly relevant to this topic. I have only begun reading it in the last few days, and it has already had a huge impact on me. The author, W.J. Harney, makes clear that one of the most important aspects of keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord is prayer, and the command from the Apostle Paul is to pray unceasing (1 Thess. 5:17)

In the Preface to the book, W.J. Harney opens with,

“It has been the author’s firm conviction that the crying need of this age is a praying Christianity. When the weakest saint falls upon his knees the Devil trembles. If the weakest can cause him to fear, what about a Daniel? a Paul?”

Imagine the impact prayer would have on our lives if we simply made the time to sit down and seek that relationship with the Lord? As if to anticipate the excuse that most of us would give, i.e. “I’m too busy”, he has the following to say,

“In this electric age, most every one is on the run, hands full, head full; on the hurried march from early dawn until late at night answering the many, many calls. One cannot see much time to go to the closet; one can hardly get his eyes open before duty calls strong and loud, and off we hurry to office, business, school, store, shop, without any quiet time before Him. The devil hates prayer, he is aware of the fact that the prayer life is the successful life, hence, he must interrupt some way and if he can get us in a nervous hurry, we will neglect our quiet times and become weaklings and easy to overcome.”

Does any of the second quote ring bells with any of you? This book was written more than a century ago, the author long since departed to be with the Lord, and yet he describes a world remarkably and eerily like our own. Furthermore, he hits us in one of those places where it hurts us the most. The human mind instinctively rebels against the idea of weakness, and here is a preacher who has laid out how we can avoid being weak before our enemy. As I have mentioned before, we are at war, and Jesus was pushing this point. As the saying goes, “Keep your eye on the prize”, and this is the greatest prize to be found anywhere. Nothing else comes even remotely close.

Bear in mind that this is the same chapter in which Jesus lays out not only the template for how to pray, but also lays out the attitude in which we are to approach that prayer. We are to come to Him in humble supplication, acknowledging who He is, what He does for us daily, and what we owe Him as created creatures made new by His Sacrifice on the Cross. When He laid out what we call The Lord’s Prayer, there is a line in there that makes clear that we are to pray daily, and that line is “Give us this day our daily bread.” If that is our daily bread, how often are we to be asking for it? Daily.

If this is the template for daily prayer, and that template requires us to acknowledge our complete dependence on Him for our continued existence and sustenance, then what Harney said above makes a lot more sense. Prayer is how we keep our eyes fixed on the Lord, how we keep ourselves from Sin, and how we confound the efforts of the Devil as he tries to derail our efforts against him. He desires nothing more than for us to join him in eternal condemnation, and I for one have no desire to see him win. Do you?

Finally, there is something Jesus says at the end of this passage which adds a whole other element to His teaching here. He says, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (verse 24). Who or what is Mammon? Mammon is an ancient Syriac word that refers to a false god worshipped in ancient times, one known as the god of riches. Bear in mind that many of the false gods are not figments of the imagination, but rather demons sent to lead humans astray. This is no light or transient thing.

In the First Century, the name “Mammon” was used in Judea to denote wealth. The plain meaning of this one sentence is that you cannot serve the Lord your God and devote your time and attention to gaining the things of this world at the same time. In the end, you will be forced to choose between God and all your stuff. Love of stuff and money precludes relationship with God because it leads your heart and mind away from the things that are pleasing in His sight. Love the Lord, and He will reward you according to His will and His plan. Love stuff, and you already have your reward. The choice is yours.

[1] Harney, W.J. (1915), “Praying Clear Through”, God’s Revivalist Press, Cincinnati, OH