Unexpected Response

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I’m a bit of a nut about the exactness of words, so one of my pet peeves is the incorrect use of imply and infer. “Imply” is something I do as the speaker; “infer” is something you do as the listener. Or you might say implying is like throwing and inferring is like catching. 

A big problem arises when I infer something that you didn’t imply. Or even worse, when I infer something based on something you didn’t say. People will often say something like this, “Since Jesus didn’t specifically talk about ________ then it must be okay.” In logic, this would be called an argument from ignorance: concluding that an action must be acceptable because it has not been specifically stated to be unacceptable. 

Statement #10 in our series asking “Is that in the Bible?” is—Love your neighbor. Is that in the Bible? Yes!  

Remember Jesus called “Scripture” all of the words we would now call “Old Testament.” So in Matthew 5:43 Jesus quoted Scripture: Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:18). 

Later on, Jesus would add to this Deuteronomy 6:5—Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength—to answer the question about the greatest commandment of all. 

In Leviticus 19, the Hebrew word for love means love in the broadest sense of the word, and neighbor means a friend or a fellow citizen. Unfortunately, the rabbis inferred that someone not a Jew was therefore an enemy and therefore not worthy of love. They further inferred that the opposite of love was hate. 

Matthew Henry commented, “They were willing to infer what God never designed.” 

Statement #11 is—Hate your enemy. Is that in the Bible? Yes, in the fact that it appears in print in Matthew 5:43, but it doesn’t appear in the Scripture that Jesus knew. It had become so ingrained in the thinking of people that they now assumed it was in the Bible. 

In many ways, the Old Testament laws were easier to live out because they were all external and easy to measure, like don’t murder or don’t sleep with someone who isn’t your spouse. But Jesus made it a heart issue—He said lust is the same as adultery and hate is the same as murder. 

Jesus also made love for enemies a heart issue. The word He used for love in the Greek is agape—the same word describing God’s love for His enemies in John 3:16—For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but would have everlasting life. 

Jesus said our enemies were really our neighbors and were worthy of sacrificial love because they, too, were loved by God. 

Matthew 5:44 is shortened in the NIV and has a footnote explaining that the longer verse was not seen in the earlier manuscripts. But given the fact that Jesus demonstrated everything found in the longer version of this verse, I think we are safe in using it. So let’s look at the response Jesus calls us to from the NKJV: But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. 

Here’s what Jesus says it means for us to love our enemies:

(1) Bless the cursers. We’ve all been “cursed out” with nasty, hateful words. When that happens, Jesus wants to bless that neighbor. The word He used for bless literally means to say good words. 

(2) Help the haters. Jesus said we are to do those things that are beautiful and excellent—like the good Good Samaritan did for his enemy-turned-neighbor (see Luke 10:25-37).  

(3) Pray for the persecutors. Talk to God about them; don’t talk to others about them. 

This response from Christians toward people whom others would call an enemy is totally unexpected by the world. This unexpected response will begin to draw enemies toward Jesus (1 Peter 2:12). If we will treat enemies and neighbors, they may soon become brothers and sisters in the family of God! 

When the world hits us Christians out of hate, let’s respond with unexpected love: blessing those who curse us, helping those who hurt us, and praying for those who persecute us. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Is That In The Bible? series, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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Protected To Be Fruitful 

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We just finished a 2-week look at Psalm 88 & Psalm 89 which reminded us of the reality of temporary darkness and the certainty of eternal light. We said our dark days are meant to get our attention to rely on God’s covenant promise. 

Something else we should be aware of: Whenever we run to or return to Jesus, the enemy of our souls prepares an attack (1 Samuel 7:3-10; 1 Peter 5:8). 

The next psalm with a Selah is David’s prayer in Psalm 140. Selah appears 3 times in this short, 13-verse psalm. 

We’ve said that Selah can mean a pause to carefully consider, a pause to observe the contrasts, or a pause to prepare for a crescendo. The Selahs after verses 3 and 5 don’t appear to fit the second or third definitions, but why would David ask us to pause to consider what wicked men are doing? I believe it is because we need to pause to contemplate two vital things, which I’ll share with you in a moment. 

But first, notice the wicked men and evil times that David is confronting. He speaks of evildoers, violent people, wicked men, arrogant people, and slanderers (vv. 1, 4-5, 8, 11). 

Surrounding the first two Selahs, check out David’s prayer for God to…

  • …rescue me (v. 1a)—get me out of here, or take the evil away from me  
  • protect me (v. 1b, 5b)—don’t let me be defeated or even diminished  
  • keep me (v. 4a)—we might say David is asking God to “watch my six” or guard the places I cannot see (notice the words net and traps in v. 5b) 

The first Selah lesson we should take away is: There, but for the grace of God, go I. 

If I hadn’t accepted Jesus as my Savior and had a new nature imparted to me, I would be doing exactly what these wicked people are doing. Paul tells Timothy what evil people will do, and he tells the Corinthian Christians that they used to be those same kinds of people (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 1 Corinthians 6:11). 

When I see evil men, men of violence, and wicked people who are proud and slandering, I need to Selah to pray that the light and love of Jesus will be revealed to them. 

The second Selah lesson we should take away is: God is doing something in my life through wicked men and evil times. 

The words the Holy Spirit prompted David to pen have a richer definition than what I previously shared with you. Check this out…

  • rescue me (v. 1a) also means make me strong and well-armed for battle  
  • …protect me (v. 1b, 5b) envisions a gardener carefully watching over his vineyard to bring the plants to fruitful maturity (like in John 15:1-2)  
  • keep me (v. 4a) can mean “fight for me”  

Sometimes God protects me from violence. Sometimes God protects me through violence. Whatever the case, I can be assured that I will be rescued and He will be glorified. This prayer in Psalm 140 is a prayer for protection so that we can be fruitful for God’s kingdom.

We need to Selah during the evil times we live in and whenever we have to endure wicked attacks. 

  1. Selah to thank God that you have been redeemed from that evil lifestyle by your faith in Jesus, and then pray for your attackers (Matthew 5:44). 
  2. Selah to thank God that He is using even evil people to make you more fruitful, to arm you for battle, and to glorify His name (Mark 13:9). 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can check them all out by clicking here. 

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Links & Quotes

William Perkins defined theology as, “The science of living blessedly forever.” He also had this word for pastors as they teach theology: “The ‘demonstration of the Spirit’ becomes a reality when, in preaching, the minister of the Word conducts himself in such a way that everyone—even those who are ignorant of the gospel and are unbelievers—recognize that it is not so much the preacher who is speaking but the Spirit of God in him and by him…. This is what makes his ministry living and powerful.”

“Self-trust is the first secret of success.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

80 Years Ago: The Assemblies of God was a founding member of the National Association of Evangelicals, and remains the largest of the 40 denominations that are members of the NAE today.

John Piper identifies five digital dangers and gives us strategies for combating them. I especially thought these insights on pornography were powerful: “More insidious that X-rated videos, we can now not only watch but join the perversity in the privacy of our own den. Interactive porn will allow you to ‘do it’ or make them ‘do it’ virtually. I have never seen it. Nor do I ever intend to. It kills the spirit. It drives God away. It depersonalizes women. It quenches prayer. It blanks out the Bible. It cheapens the soul. It destroys spiritual power. It defiles everything. Resolution: I will never open any app or website for sexual stimulation, nor purchase or download anything pornographic.”

“I could well believe that it is God‘s intention, since we have refused milder remedies, to compel us into unity, by persecution even and hardship. satan is without doubt nothing else than a hammer in the hand of a benevolent and severe God. For all, either willingly or unwillingly, do the will of God: Judas and satan as tools or instruments, John and Peter as sons.” —C.S. Lewis

“The response of Jesus to those guilty of sexual sin is not to condemn nor condone the sin. I see in His example [John 8:10-12] a good pattern: (1) Love first—‘I don’t condemn you’; (2) Speak the truth—‘Sin no more.’” —Kevin Berry. The world has made “love” mean accepting whatever the other person is doing, and “truth” now means agreeing with the other person. With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can speak the truth in love without condemning nor condoning.

Perspective On Persecution

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Around the world we hear of Christians being persecuted for their faith in Jesus: Afghanistan … N. Korea … China … even in the USA, Christians like Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman are being persecuted for standing up for what they believe. 

Here’s an important principle to keep in mind: In times like these, we need to remember there have always been times like these. Especially because the psalmist Asaph, Jesus, and the apostle Paul all forewarned us about persecution (Psalm 83; Mark 13:9, 12-13; 2 Timothy 3:12-13). 

Jesus said that our persecution should only come “on account of Me.” And Asaph notices the same thing in his prayer, using phrases like “Your enemies,” “Your foes,” “they conspire against Your people,” and “they form an alliance against You.” 

Asaph also recognized that times like these call for a Selah pause—a pause to calmly consider. 

I think the first thing we need to consider is our part in bringing on the persecution. I need to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal if I may have been the trigger to the anger of these wicked people. If I have done something, I need to repent, ask forgiveness, and see what I can do to make restitution. 

Next, we need to Selah to consider this: It might look desperate, but God has handled these kinds of evil people before. Asaph mentions several enemies of God’s people whom God decisively defeated in the past. Our Selah pause will help us recall that God is the same today as He was yesterday—He is more than able to handle these persecutors. 

With all of these bullies ganging up on Israel, you can understand why Asaph cries out for God’s strong action against them. But I want you to notice that the call for judgment is NOT vindictive but redemptive. Asaph asks for punishment “so that men will seek Your name, O LORD” and that they may “know that You, whose name is the LORD—that You alone are the Most High over all the earth. 

In other words, this isn’t a “Get ‘em, God” prayer, but a “Save ‘em, God” prayer! 

We’re not looking for relief for ourselves—that’s only temporary—but we’re looking for glory for God—that’s eternal!

Jesus and the apostle Peter both tell us that God’s desire is for no one to perish apart from a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17; 2 Peter 3:9). 

The reason we need to Selah and ask that introspective question about our words or actions triggering our persecutor’s anger is because God will use our righteous response to persecution as a testimony. 

Jesus said our persecution should be because of Him, but He also told us that there would be a blessing in it (Matthew 5:11-12; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17-19). And Paul tells us that this reward isn’t just a silver lining to a dark cloud, but a reward beyond compare (Romans 8:18). 

Asaph went to prayer when Israel was attacked, and that should be our first response too. 

But let’s Selah in that prayer to make sure we’re not the trigger, and then may our prayer be more for God’s eternal glory than it is for our temporary relief. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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“They” Or “You”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

For they have devoured Jacob and devastated his homeland. (Psalm 79:9) 

This verse is at the middle of this psalm, which in Hebrew literature makes it the central theme of this psalm. Asaph describes something that is not a very pretty situation. 

Asaph says “they” have done this. But to whom have they done it? To the Israelites? Yes, but it goes deeper than that. Or should I say it goes higher than that? “They” have actually done these terrible things to God Himself—

  • Your inheritance is invaded 
  • Your temple is destroyed 
  • Your servants are attacked 
  • Your name is dishonored 
  • insults are hurled at You 

In the New Testament, Jesus said His followers should expect persecution. But notice that Jesus said this persecution was because of Him. “They” are not really attacking Christians, but “They” are attacking Jesus Himself. When Jesus revealed Himself to the persecutor of Christians named Saul of Tarsus, He said to him, “Saul, why do you persecute Me?” 

Asaph recognizes “They” are attacking God, so he also expects that God will deal with them—

  • may Your mercy meet us 
  • may Your name be glorified 
  • may Your strong arm be revealed 
  • may Your sheep be protected 
  • may You be praised forever 

When—not if—persecution comes our way, we must remember to shift our paradigm from “They” to “You.” “They” are not to be feared, but God is to be feared and reverenced. “They” don’t get the final word, but God, “You” get the final and decisive word. When the attacks come because you stand for Christ, take your eyes off of your persecutors and put them on your God. 

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10 Quotes From “The Sermons Of Charles Spurgeon”

I share lengthy passages from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons in my weekly Thursdays With Spurgeon feature, along with my short commentaries. But here are some individual quotes from the prince of preachers who were just too good to not share! 

“Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go to plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea—be lost in His immensity. And you will come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated.” 

“Blessed be His dear name, He is unchanged in His love. When He first wrote the covenant, how full His heart was with affection to His people. He knew that His Son must die to ratify the articles of that agreement. He knew right well that He must rend His Best Beloved from His heart and send Him down to earth to bleed and die. He did not hesitate to sign that mighty covenant. Nor did He shun its fulfillment. He loves as much now as He did then. And when suns will cease to shine and moons to show their feeble light, He still will love on forever and forever.” 

“We sweat, we toil, and we fail. How often do we come back weeping because we have toiled, as we think, without success! Yet, Christian man, you have not been without success, for ‘He is still in one mind.’ All this was necessary to the fulfillment of His one purpose. You are not lost; your labor has not rotted under the clod. All, though you see it not, has been working together toward the desired end.” 

“Creation is an arrow from the bow of God, and that arrow goes on, straight on, without deviation to the center of the target that God ordained that it should strike.” 

“Though in the dark hours you and I may slip and often fall, yet His loving-kindness changes not. Your strong arm, O God, will bear us on. Your loving heart will never fail. You will not turn your love away from us or make it cease to pour upon us Your fierce anger, but having begun You will complete the triumphs of Your grace.” 

“God calls upon us, until the world is utterly destroyed with fire, to go on saving men with all our might and main. Every year that passes is meant to be a year of salvation. We rightly call each year the year of our Lord. Let us make it so by more earnest efforts for the bringing of sinners to the Cross of Christ.” 

“The very fact that you are made to groan and cry by reason of God’s long-suffering to guilty men gives you sympathy with Christ and union with Christ, who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself! … But when, through the long-suffering of God with the ungodly, you are made to suffer, account it to be a mark of your salvation. ‘Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you’ (Matthew 5:12).” 

“Blessed be God, the effect of Christ’s medicine does not depend upon the degree to which we can realize how it acts, but if we receive it by faith, if it penetrates into the heart, if it takes possession of the affections, it will work in us that wondrous change by which we will be delivered from the love of sin and saved both from its condemnation and its power! Thank God for a simple gospel!” 

“Although our Lord Jesus Christ is more perfect than any other example—indeed, the only perfect example—yet it is easier to imitate Christ than it is to imitate some of the best of His people.” 

“Because the pill is gilded, you suck down the poison. Because the thing is popular, you patronize it, though it is lustful, it is abominable, it is deceitful!” 

More quotes coming soon, so stay tuned! 

Growth Problems

…the number of disciples was increasing… (Acts 6:1).

Growth is a nice problem to have. But it is still a problem that needs to be addressed, or else the growth can implode an organization. 

In this instance, the early Christian church was growing rapidly and attempting to address the need for getting food to widows. Apparently, some of the widows were being overlooked in that food distribution. 

To start the ball rolling on solving this growth problem, the apostles gave some simple parameters: We will focus on preaching, the rest of you should select administrators to oversee the food ministry (vv. 2-4). The job description was pretty simple too—they must have a good reputation, be full of the Holy Spirit, be wise, and (this is implied) be willing to serve.

Notice the trust the church leaders placed in that congregation: 

  • seek out from among you
  • they chose
  • they set them [the candidates] before the apostles

The congregation was pleased by both the apostles’ plan and the level of trust that was conferred on them. It appears that seven men were the unanimous selection of both the congregation and the church leaders. 

After these men were installed in their new administrative roles, look at the results:

  • more preaching
  • more salvations
  • more inroads into the Jewish religious leadership sect
  • more people fed
  • more miracles performed
  • and more persecution from those threatened by the church’s rapid growth

It’s interesting to note that Luke uses the word added to talk about the church’s growth in chapters 1-5, but after this growth problem is successfully resolved, Luke stops using added and only uses multiplication terminology. 

When handled the right way, growth problems—or any problems, for that matter—lead to more growth. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who handles growth problems correctly. 

This is part 36 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Undeniableness

…we cannot deny it (Acts 4:16)

The healing of a 40-year-old man who has been lame from birth is truly undeniable! But the Sadducees (the truly religious elite) took issue with the fact that Peter and John were then telling people about God’s resurrection power (which they did not believe).

It was undeniable that…

  • … the lame man was healed
  • … Peter spoke boldly with the help of the Holy Spirit
  • … Peter and John’s eloquence in spiritual matters was not bookish learning but divine illumination
  • … Peter and John had been with Jesus
  • … Peter and John could not be silenced by threats
  • … the admiration of the crowd following the healing and Peter’s sermon
  • … God was glorified

So what did the church do? They prayed for more “undeniableness” to be demonstrated by God through their lives!

They knew none of these threats took God by surprise, but they all happened as God had “determined before to be done” (v. 28). So they said, “We are Your servants in this—do more undeniable things through us. Enable us to speak Your Word boldly, and empower us to do signs and wonders in the name of Jesus” (vv. 29, 30).

And God answered that prayer!

What about us? Are we willing to pray that prayer today? Will we allow God to do undeniable things through us? Persecution may follow, but so will God’s glory, and saved souls, and healed people!

For more evidence of the unmistakable evidence that follows Spirit-baptized Christians, check out this post.

9 More Quotes From “Expository Thoughts On The Gospels”

Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote a commentary on the Gospels nearly 200 years ago, and it still stands as a phenomenal Bible study resource. Check out my full review by clicking here. 

“When do men make others stumble? … Professing Christians do it whenever they bring discredit on their religion by inconsistencies of temper, of word, or of deed. We do it whenever we make our Christianity unlovely in the eyes of the world by conduct not in keeping with our profession. The world may not understand the doctrines and principles of believers, but the world is very keen-sighted about their practice. … Men will judge by what they see far more than by what they hear.” 

“Every true-hearted Christian who tries to do good in the world must make up his mind to be treated like his Master. He must never be surprised to find that the self-righteous and the worldly-minded dislike His ways.” 

“We shall discover by experience that all is not gold that glitters, and all are not true Christians who make a loud profession of Christianity. The language of Christianity is precisely that part of religion which a false Christian finds it most easy to attain. The walk of a man’s daily life, and not the talk of his lips, is the only safe test of his character.” 

“It is not in reality an astonishing thing that there should rise up so many who call in question the truth of the Bible. The marvel is rather that in a fallen world the sect of the Sadducees should be so small.” 

“Here, if anywhere, we need the heart of a little child and the prayer ‘open my eyes’ (Psalm 119:18). Let us beware on the one side of that lazy indifference which turns away from all prophetical Scripture on account of its difficulties. Let us beware on the other side of that dogmatical and arrogant spirit which makes men forget that they are students, and talk as confidently as if they were prophets themselves.” 

“To suffer patiently for Christ is far more difficult than to work actively. To sit still and endure calmly is far more hard than to stir about and take part in a battle. Crusaders will always be found more numerous than martyrs.” 

“The true cure for a dull memory in religion is to get deeper love toward Christ, and affections more thoroughly set on things above. We do not readily forget the things we love, and the objects which we keep continually under our eyes. The names of our parents and children are always remembered. The face of the husband or wife we love is engraved on the tablets of our hearts. The more our affections are engaged in Christ’s service, the more easy shall we find it to remember Christ’s words.” 

“Let it be a settled principle in our minds, in reading the Bible, that Christ is the central sun of the whole Book. So long as we keep Him in view we shall never greatly err in our search for spiritual knowledge. Once losing sight of Christ, we shall find the whole Bible dark and full of difficulty. The key of Bible knowledge is Jesus Christ.” 

“He that desires to read his Bible with profit must first ask the Lord Jesus to open the eyes of his understanding by the Holy Spirit. Human commentaries are useful in their way. The help of good and learned men is not to be despised. But there is no commentary to be compared with the teaching of Christ. A humble and prayerful spirit will find a thousand things in the Bible which the proud, self-conceited student will utterly fail to discern.” 

You can also check out some other quotes that Bishop Ryle shared on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 

Jesus Prepares Us For The Path

In His final week of ministry leading up to the Cross, Jesus got the most out of every minute He had. 

After a busy Monday where He cleared the temple, Jesus went back to Bethany, where He spent the night, only to return to the same temple courts Tuesday morning to teach His disciples. 

Tuesday is a preparation day. This is His last day in public before His trial and crucifixion and He has many final words to impart to His followers. Much of His teaching comes in response to the increasing onslaught from the religious leadership, who are desperately trying to find a way to silence Him once and for all.

It’s important to note that Jesus doesn’t prepare the path for us, but He prepares us for the path. 

Jesus prepares us for… 

1. OPPOSITION

Not only did Jesus face opposition, but He told His followers that we would too (see Matthew 5:11; 10:17-22). Indeed as Jesus sat in the temple courts teaching on this Tuesday, group after group of religious leaders attacked Him (Matthew 21:23; 22:15, 23, 34-35). There are many lessons we can learn, but here are a few important takeaways: 

    • Answer entrapping questions with a question of your own. 
    • You don’t have to answer everything people ask you.  
    • Either-or questions probably need a both-and answer. 
    • The better we know the Scriptures, the better we can know those both-and answers.
    • Consider the source of the questioner. 
    • We shouldn’t have an unhealthy obsession with nonessential things. 
    • Love fulfills the law. 
    • When we teach in love, some people will finally get it.

2. DAILY LIVING

Between all of the entrapping questions, Jesus taught some valuable lessons. 

    • The power of faith-filled prayer
    • Obedience to God is valuable whenever it happens and in whomever it occurs 
    • We are only stewards of God’s resources 
    • The ugliness of hypocrisy

3. END TIMES EVENTS

Jesus doesn’t want us to be surprised, so He tells us upfront what is coming. Some of what He teaches here would have partial fulfillment in about 30 years when the Romans besieged Jerusalem, but the ultimate fulfillment is still to come—Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21. 

Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us. Which means everything He taught us was for our benefit. To honor Him, we need to know the Scriptures and God’s power (Matthew 22:29). 

So we study the Word of God to get to know the God of the Word. Keeping our eyes on Jesus will keep us prepared for the path ahead of us, no matter how rough it is. 

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