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God Blesses & Protects Those Who Belong To Him


“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
(Matthew 18:5-6 ESV)


After explaining how one gets into heaven yesterday – by adopting a child-like attitude towards Him – Jesus today explains how people should treat those who are part of His family (i.e. Christians). All parents appreciate those who treat their children well and don’t welcome those who treat their children poorly. God is the same way (we are made in His image, after all).

Whoever receives (i.e. welcomes) one of God’s children in Jesus’ name receives Jesus. The phrase “in my name” means “in the same manner as Jesus”. When a person (non-Christian or Christian) treats a Christian as Jesus would, they are treating Jesus kindly. Here we see the inseparability of Jesus and His people. Whatever affects believers affects Him [Matthew 25:31-40; John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 12:27 et. al].

But whoever (non-Christian or Christian) causes a person who believes in [Jesus] to sin is not appreciated by God. In fact, Jesus has some of His harshest words for such people saying they would be better of being killed in one of the most horrific manners possible.

Millstones were used in mills for various purposes and as such came in different sizes. The great millstone Jesus refers to here was the biggest of all that was turned in the grinding process by animals. It often weighed hundreds of pounds.

One form of execution carried out by the Roman government was tying a heavy stone around a person’s neck and dropping them off the side of a ship into the ocean. Jesus’ analogy here takes this to the extreme by referencing a stone larger than any normally used and also referring to the the deepest part (depth) of the sea.

Anyone who trips up one of God’s children and gets them to sin will face a wrath from God that is so fierce that they would be better off dying in this manner. This is how valuable those of us who are part of God’s family are to Him

Parents don’t like boys who get their daughters pregnant. Or those who introduce their kids to drugs. If they could they would make the life of these perpetrators miserable. Likewise, God fiercely protects His children. But the difference is, God can (and will) get His revenge when His children are harmed.

Christianity is not a systematic religion. It is a collection of forgiven sinners who are adopted into God’s eternal family through faith in His son, Jesus [John 1:12]. As such, we receive blessings that are not available to those outside the family. And at the same time, our father (God) fiercely protects us.

Human families work the same way. Parents provide their kids with food, clothing, and education. They don’t do such things for children who are not theirs. God created the family unit to be a living metaphor of the eternal family that He is building through Jesus [Ephesians 2:19-20].

All of human history can be summed up in one sentence: “God is creating a family and He wants to adopt you into it”. Those who opt to become part of that family will enter heaven and receive an eternity of blessings.

And anyone who entices one of God’s children to sin will someday face God’s wrath and wish they’d died a slow agonizing death instead.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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The First Step To Entering Heaven


At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 18:1-4 ESV)


Just a few verses ago, Jesus told His disciples that He was going to be killed when He went to Jerusalem [Matthew 17:22-23]. And while they were distressed over this, apparently they weren’t distressed too much because at that time they ask Jesus which of them will be the greatest in the kingdom that they believed Jesus was going to establish. They were more concerned about their own positions in the earthly kingdom they mistakenly thought Jesus was going to establish than they were about Jesus’ impending crucifixion.

This isn’t all too uncommon in the human race. We’re all kind of selfish. We are more concerned about our own advancement than we are about the plight of others. This is why poverty and other dreadful human conditions exist – and have existed for centuries – all around the world

Notice that Jesus does not initially address the disciples’ question. Instead of addressing who will be the greatest in the kingdom He tells them how to enter the kingdom. There’s no point in worrying about being the greatest in heaven if one isn’t going to be there.

This, of course, implies that we are born outside of God’s kingdom. No one is, by birth, a member of God’s family. In fact, just the opposite is true. We are all born as part of Satan’s family [Ephesians 2:2; John 8:44]. We must turn and become like children to enter God’s kingdom.

The Greek word for the child that Jesus used as a living illustration implies that the child was a toddler, perhaps no more than two years old. When we think of such a person we think of someone who is incapable to taking care of themselves. They don’t question authority. Instead they trust his/her parents to provide. This is the type of attitude that opens the door to heaven [Matthew 3:3].

The word “become” implies change. One does not have to “become” something if they already are that something. As we grow into adults we become more self sufficient. But God calls on us to cease our pride and again become humble, like a child. King David spoke of such humility in Psalm 131.

This means that we don’t take our lives into our own hands but instead let God lead us. It means we don’t worry about tomorrow. Instead we trust God to provide our daily needs [Matthew 6:11]. In short, it means turning from ourselves as our source of hope and peacefully resting in God’s grace.

God often refers to believers as “children”. Jesus is God’s begotten Son. We are God’s adopted children. This is because it’s only with a child-like attitude that one can accept God’s forgiveness for sin and as a result join His family and enter heaven.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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It’s Better To Practice Self-Sacrifice Than To Create Controversy


As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
(Matthew 17:22-27 ESV)


Today’s passage from Matthew comprises two different scenes. In the first, Jesus gives His disciples some bad news followed by some good news. He reminds them that He is about to be delivered into the hands of men who will kill Him. As we’ve recently read, Jesus had told them this before [Matthew 16:21]. But then He gives them the good news, as He had on those previous occasions: He will be raised on the third day.

The disciples were greatly distressed. They obviously understood that Jesus was saying He was going to die. Perhaps they were distressed about Jesus’ death. Or perhaps they were concerned about what would happen to them, having aligned themselves with Him for these three years. But in any case, they clearly did not understand that Jesus would rise from the dead. Such news should have given them hope rather than anxiety.

But we can’t blame them for not understanding. Who would ever have thought that a human being could die and come back to life? Jesus’ words would have made no sense to them. It wasn’t until Jesus actually rose from the dead that His words made any sense [Luke 24:6-8].

In the next scene, Jesus is approached by tax-collectors wondering if Jesus will pay the tax that was assessed to every male twenty years or older in Israel, as commanded by God [Exodus 30:13-15]. Even though Peter spontaneously claims that Jesus pays this tax, he was mistaken.

Jesus was not obligated to pay the tax because the temple belonged to God. As God’s son, Jesus would have been except as parents don’t collect such usage fees from their children. Here is another statement by Jesus about His deity. Since offspring are the same as their parents (e.g. zebras create zebras) Jesus is claiming to be deity, as God is, by claiming to be His son.

But even though Jesus did not legally have to pay the tax, He pays it anyway so as to not give offense to the Jews. It was Jesus’ right to not pay the tax. But He paid it simply because not doing so would have created controversy.

This is a great lesson for us today. It’s better to make an unnecessary sacrifice to avoid getting someone upset than it is to stand for your rights. Rather than hold onto our “rights” we should be more interested in preserving relationships. This is exactly what Jesus did when He came to earth [Philippians 2:5-8].

Finally, note that this passage provides some anecdotal evidence as to the age of the disciples. Only men twenty-years and older were required to pay the tax. Of the twelve disciples, plus Jesus, only Jesus and Peter paid the tax. Both were therefore, over 20 years old (we know Jesus was about 30 [Luke 3:23]). The other ten disciples, therefore, could very well have been teenagers.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Just A Little Faith Would Eliminate Our Suffering


And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
(Matthew 17:14-21 ESV)


In today’s passage Jesus, Peter, James, and John have come down from the mountain where the three disciples witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration. The other nine disciples had apparently been left behind and while the four were gone, a man had brought his son, who was suffering greatly from seizures, to the nine but they could not heal him.

The man approached Jesus and knelt before Him, pleading with Jesus to have mercy on His son. The Greek language here is very strong. Not only was the boy suffering but his father was suffering too. It broke his heart that his son was in constant danger. So the man turns to Jesus. This was a wise thing to do. When we have problems that are too much for us and that overwhelm us we need to bring them to Jesus rather than relying on human beings.

Jesus, of course, heals the boy in an instant by rebuking the demon that was possessing the boy. No problem is too big for Jesus. No problem is too small. He cares enough about us to help us with the mundane problems we face and He’s powerful enough to overcome our strongest obstacles.

Notice, though, that the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him why they couldn’t drive the demon out. This was a very wise thing to do. They had failed but they wanted to understand why.

There is a saying that goes “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”. The times that we don’t triumph cannot be considered loses if we use the experience to understand how to do better next time and if we actually put what we learn to use next time. An experience is only a loss if we learn nothing from it.

When Christians find their efforts ineffectual they should pray and ask God to inform them as to why they were unsuccessful. Just like Jesus (who was God) does in this passage, God will tell us. His goal is for us to become like Jesus. Therefore He will not withhold any information from those who truly seek it. He will teach us if we simply ask Him.

Jesus teaches the disciples that the reason they couldn’t cast out the demon was they had so little faith. It’s doubtful Jesus is talking about literally moving a mountain. That would be a pointless miracle that even He declined to perform [Matthew 12:38-39]. Rather He is speaking metaphorically.

Great things cannot be accomplished without great faith. With even faith like a grain of mustard seed (i.e. just a small amount of faith), nothing would be impossible.

We could eliminate those things in our life that are causing us to suffer if, like the father in this story, we have faith in Jesus and we bring our problems to Him.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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God Wants To Calm Our Fears & Teach Us Things


And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
(Matthew 17:1-13 ESV)


Today we finish up our study of the transfiguration as recorded by Matthew in His gospel. Three of Jesus’ closest disciples, Peter, James, and John, were lead up to a mountain top by Jesus and once there they had three amazing experiences. They saw Jesus display His true, divine glory. They saw two long-dead Old Testament figures, Moses and Elijah. And they heard the voice of God. That’s some pretty cool stuff.

Upon hearing God’s voice these three disciples fell on their faces and were terrified. Having a relationship with God is a blessing. Those of us who are God’s adopted children have some pretty cool experiences. But having a relationship with God is also very humbling. There are times when we realize just how sinful we are and how holy God is in comparison. We know that we fall well short of God’s standards. Such a realization creates reverential fear born out of humility. It makes us want to hide from God.

Certainly every child of God has experienced this. When we screw up in life our natural reaction is to “hide” from God. We stop praying because we don’t want to face Him. But God knows everything already. And as we’ve learned a few times, God isn’t looking for reasons to whack us over the head when we error. His goal is to teach us to do better next time. This is why God spoke to the disciples in today’s passage. He was correcting Peter’s error.

But notice how Jesus deals with the disciples fear. He came closer to them and touched them. They hid. Jesus approached. Just like in the Garden of Eden [Genesis 3:8]. While those who do not belong to God’s family should fear Him, God wants His children to have no fear of Him.

While coming down the mountain the disciples asked Jesus a question about an Old Testament passage in Malachi 4:5 in which God promised that Elijah would come before judgement day. The disciples were still mistaken about Jesus. They thought He was going to Jerusalem to conquer and that “judgement day” was right around the corner and wonder why Elijah has not preceded Jesus.

But Elijah did come, at least in spirit, in the form of John the Baptist who turned people to God as Elijah did as prophesied to John’s parents [Luke 1:17; John 1:21]. Many believe that Elijah will return to earth physically during the Tribulation as one of the two witnesses (the other being Moses) mentioned in Revelation 11:3-13.

Note that God is also willing to answer our questions. He is never unwilling to teach us. He never gets bothered by our ignorance or silly statements, such as Peter uttered. God is approachable. He will never chastise us for not knowing. He wants to give us answers to our questions.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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No One Has More Authority Than Jesus


And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
(Matthew 17:1-13 ESV)


I thought today’s verse was very interesting. It is one I can relate to. It actually began yesterday when Peter was speaking to Jesus during His transfiguration. Peter made a foolish suggestion but before He could finish his thought God interrupted Him (he was still speaking). This has often happened to me in prayer. I find myself just going on and on because I think I need to say something and finally God just cuts me off and tells me something I need to hear. This is what happened to Peter.

In the form of a bright cloud God spoke to Peter, James, and John. God often appeared to people as a cloud [Exodus 13:21, 16:10, 24:16]. God tells them “[Jesus] is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him”. As if the transfiguration of Jesus wasn’t awesome enough to see, now the disciples hear the very voice of God. These are very similar words to the ones God spoke at Jesus’ baptism [Matthew 3:17].

Jesus often called God His father and Himself the “Son of God”, thereby declaring Himself to be deity [John 5:17-20]. Offspring (e.g. sons and daughters) have the same nature as their parents (zebras create other zebras). So an offspring of deity is deity as well. In today’s passage God confirms this by calling Jesus His Son.

Jesus is God’s natural son. All human believers are children of God too, but we are adopted children. We are not deity and will never be deity.

God also states that everything Jesus did was approved by God. Jesus and His father were in perfect accord, one-hundred percent of the time [John 10:30 et. al]. If Jesus was doing and saying all the things God wanted Him to do and say, then it makes sense that the disciples (and we) should listen to Him.

The disciples, Peter in particular, didn’t want to believe that Jesus was going to be tortured and crucified in Jerusalem even though He had told them this would happen. They probably weren’t too fond of hearing that they, too, would have to suffer for Jesus’ sake.

But Jesus never misspeaks. He never lies. He never disguises the truth. Therefore we should listen to Him. If He tells us that something is sin then it is sin. If He tells us that we are cherished by God, then we are cherished by God. None of us should ever doubt anything He says.

Notice that God didn’t say “Listen to me”. He said “Listen to Jesus”. God has granted all authority on earth and in heaven to His son, Jesus [Matthew 28:18]. There is no on else on earth we should listen to.

Earth has its human leaders in government and business. We often must do as they say. But none of them have more authority than Jesus. Jesus is supreme. Any idea that contradicts Jesus’, such as Peter’s attempt to stop Jesus from being crucified or to equate Jesus with mere mortals, is wrong.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Jesus Is Equal To No Man


And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and lead them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
(Matthew 17:1-13 ESV)


Yesterday we read the story of Jesus’ mountaintop transfiguration before Peter, James, and John. Seeing this was certainly an unforgettable experience for these three disciples. But another interesting thing happened while Jesus was transfigured. Moses and Elijah appeared to them (the disciples). These two Old Testament figures talked with Jesus.

It is likely that these two particular men appeared because they represent the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). What Gentiles call the Old Testament is known by the Jews simply as The Scriptures. These writings are often referred to in the New Testament as Moses and the prophets [Luke 16:29, 24:44].

The Old Testament reveals God’s plan to save mankind from their sin by sending a Messiah. The entire Old Testament points to the Messiah, to be sent by God to set people free from the penalty of their sins. The appearance of Moses and Elijah, both synonymous with the Old Testament, was another confirmation that Jesus was the Messiah spoken of in the Old Testament.

Moreover, Moses represents those who die a physical death and go to be with the Lord while Elijah represents those who are taken from this earth without having experienced death, just like many will at the coming Rapture [2 Kings 2:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18]. Here we see that life does indeed go on after this earth and that people retain their identities and are recognizable in the next life.

Notice also that Moses and Elijah did not speak to the disciples; they spoke with Jesus. When we are gathered among other believers our focus should be on Christ, not each other.

Not surprisingly, Peter can’t keep quiet and offers to make three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. A plausible explanation for Peter’s suggestion is that the Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles) was taking place at this time. Commanded by God, this feast was an annual commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt (lead by Moses) thousands of years earlier [Leviticus 23:33-44].

During this week-long feast (known in Hebrew as Sukkot) the Jews lived in tents to remember the years of wandering in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land. This festival took place every October, about six months prior to Passover, which occurs in the Spring. Peter was apparently inviting Moses and Elijah to stay for the festival.

The problem with Peter’s suggestion is that it equates Jesus with Moses and Elijah. These two men had a great place in history. They led and taught the people God’s law and pointed them towards God. But Jesus was (and is) the incarnation God. Moses and Elijah were temporary players on the world stage. Jesus is a permanent player on the eternal stage. Jesus is greater than any man.

It is the same with all of God’s children. We are to point others to Christ with our lives. But we are not to be worshipped. We deserve no honor or glory. We should just be thankful to be used by God as He sees fit to accomplish His purposes in the lives of others. Jesus is the only one who deserves our praise.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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God Does Not Want His Children To Be Disillusioned


And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
(Matthew 17:1-13 ESV)


Six days after Jesus had predicted that some of His disciples would see Him in all His glory, He led three of them, Peter, James, and John, up a high mountain and fulfilled this prophecy.

While on the mountain Jesus was transfigured before them. We know little about what this means other than what the gospel writers tell us which is simply that Jesus’ face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light. I’m sure there were other details but these men were likely too awestruck to remember anything more specific.

The Greek word translated “transfigured” is μεταμορπηοο (pronounced: met-am-or-fo’-o) and is the word from which we get our English word “metamorphosis” which means “a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one”. This is the word we use to describe the change of a caterpillar into a butterfly: an entirely different creature.

Jesus, who up until this point has been seen only in human form, now revealed to three of His closest disciples His divine radiant glory. This was, to date, Jesus’ most obvious confirmation of His deity. He showed Himself for who He truly was – God.

This was not a miracle. This was the temporary cessation of a miracle. The miracle was that God placed Himself into a human body and walked on this earth for thirty years with His glory shielded from the eyes of those around Him. The transfiguration is Jesus pressing the pause button on His humanity and letting His divine nature be exposed.

As we’ve learned, at this point in His ministry Jesus is no longer teaching the masses. He is spending these last six months of His life preparing His twelve disciples for the time when He will leave this earth. He’s told them that He was going to Jerusalem to be arrested, beaten, and crucified. After following Him for over two and a half years the disciples were likely discouraged at that news. Perhaps they were wondering if they had wasted these many months following someone who was a fraud.

Jesus had already given them some words of encouragement and will continue to do so. But the events in today’s passage would have left no doubt in the minds of Peter, James, and John that Jesus was God, just like He said He was, and that there was hope.

Sometimes we can get discouraged when life doesn’t go the way we expect. Maybe we lose a job. Or a relationship goes south. Or we get a scary medical diagnosis. It’s okay be discouraged at times, but God does not want His children to be hopeless or disillusioned.

The transfiguration was Jesus’ giving hope to disillusioned disciples. Today we have the Bible, filled with story after story of who God is and offering us hope in God’s eternal plan for His children.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Jesus Is Coming Again


Then Jesus told his disciples, “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
(Matthew 16:27-28 ESV)


One thing God always does is provide good news after He’s given bad news. In the previous passages Jesus has just told His disciples that He was going to be beaten and crucified when He goes to Jerusalem. He then told them that if they wanted to follow Him they, too, must take up their cross (figuratively if not literally). All this certainly caused the disciples quite a bit of uneasiness and discouragement.

So today Jesus gives them some encouragement. Someday Jesus (referring to Himself as the Son of Man) would return (come) in glory. This is Jesus’ first revelation of His second coming.

When Jesus returns He will repay each person according to what he has done. It’s important to note that Jesus is not saying that our deeds lead to salvation. He is saying that our deeds are evidence (or lack of it) of salvation. Many people will have done good things. But if those things were not done in Jesus’ name – for His sake – then those deeds will count for nothing [Matthew 7:21-23, 10:39].

Once someone receives God’s forgiveness and is forgiven, that person receives the Holy Spirit who guides them through the rest of their life. One thing the Holy Spirit does is allow us to do good deeds [Galatians 5:22-23].

Jesus is again claiming to be God. No one but God has the authority to judge everyone’s life. Not to mention that He says He will return with His angels. No mere human being leads a cadre of angels. Only God has a team of angels.

Jesus’ comments here are a warning. Everyone will have to answer to Him as they transition from this life into eternity. And where they spend eternity will be based on what they did to promote Jesus while on this earth.

Jesus’ comment about some standing there who will not die before they see Jesus coming in His kingdom has been the fodder of may a Bible critic. All the disciples died long before Jesus’ second coming, so these critics claim the Bible, therefore, cannot be trusted as the word of God.

But it’s quite possible that Jesus was not referring to His second coming, thousands of years in the future. It is very common for Bible prophecy to speak of both near-term events and longer-term events. Here Jesus could have been referring to the near-term future when the Holy Spirit (the power of God) was poured out on believers.

Another possibility is that Jesus is referring to His transfiguration, which took place six days later, in which He reveals His heavenly glory to three of His closest disciples: Peter, John, and James. We’ll read about that tomorrow.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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The Steep Cost Of Following Jesus


Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
(Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)


Over the past few days we’ve studied Jesus’ prediction that He would go to Jerusalem only to be mistreated and killed. These words shocked and confused the disciples. But Jesus’ comments today would have shocked them even more. In this passage Jesus tells His disciples, which includes Christians today, that we must go through the same things as He if we want to come after (follow) Him.

First, one must deny himself. The Greek word for “deny” here is an imperative verb meaning “to completely disown”. This is the same word used to describe Peter’s denial of Jesus after He was arrested [Matthew 26:70, 72, 74].

Jesus calls on His followers to categorically renounce our sinful, rebellious nature. We are to want no part of it. We are to believe, as Paul did, that there is nothing good indwelling us [Romans 7:18] and that we have nothing to commend ourselves before God. Only the person who recognizes how sinful he is who can experience God’s forgiveness [Luke 18:14].

Second, one must take up his cross. Today we wear crosses around our necks as decorations. But the cross originated as a cruel implementor of a slow, tortuous death. Jesus’ listeners would have seen it as such.

A person sentenced to be crucified was forced to carry the very cross they would be nailed to through the streets to the place of execution. Someone who was carrying his cross was, therefore, on a death march. The outcome would be gruesome. It would be shameful. It would be excruciatingly painful. It would not be changed.

Jesus’ followers must be willing to endure the same for His sake. While this may not involve being killed (although it might), following Jesus is a one-way trip. We can’t be holding onto the things of the past, including our past self. We must be willing to lose all that we could be in this world. .

This is what it takes to follow Jesus. Anyone who is unwilling to give up his worldly, earthly life will lose out when it comes to eternity, as we learned previously [Matthew 10:37-39]. Note that Jesus is not talking about temporary hardship here, such as losing a job. He is talking about intentionally adopting a lifestyle that will most assuredly bring persecution (especially in our day) yet never wavering and instead continuing to move forward behind Jesus’ lead.

This passage (and others) clearly debunk the prosperity gospel. God never promises anyone a life of ease and luxury. Don’t believe anyone who tells you He does. He promises just the opposite. There are blessings awaiting those who believe, for sure. But those come later. There is a suffering before glory. There is losing before winning.

There is nothing in the whole world worth forfeiting one’s soul over. One’s soul is eternal. It is therefore the most precious thing one has. As famous missionary Jim Elliot said: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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