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May 2015
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No One Enters God’s Kingdom Passively

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
(Matthew 11:7-15 ESV)

Today we come a rather complicated passage in Scripture. Yesterday we saw that John the Baptist was having doubts about Jesus. So he sent two of his own disciples to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah. As usual, there was a crowd around Jesus when this happened.

The crowd had witnessed John the Baptist expressing doubt and therefore may have begun to change their minds about him. So Jesus, through the use of a couple of rhetorical questions, points out that John was not a vacillator (a reed shaken by the wind). Nor was he a man who embraced the world (a man of soft clothing).

John was a prophet. In fact he was more than a prophet. While other prophets had predicted Jesus, John heralded Jesus just as previous prophets, whom Jesus quotes, predicted [Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1]. John the Baptist was the only prophet who was predicted. And he had a very important job – to introduce the world to Jesus.

These words of Jesus are a prime example of something He told us recently: He will acknowledge those who acknowledge Him [Matthew 10:32-33]. John the Baptist acknowledged Jesus’ greatness. Here Jesus acknowledges John’s greatness.

Yet as great as John was he still lived under the law since Jesus had not yet died and taken on the penalty of sin (which He did at the cross). As we’ve learned in our previous studies of Philippians and Ephesians, the law is inferior to grace. Jesus here is foreshadowing the benefits of living in the kingdom of heaven which He brought into the world [Matthew 3:1-2]. It is much better to live under grace, which we do today, than it is to live under the law, as people did in Old Testament times.

This kingdom had suffered violence from the days of John the Baptist. This statement by Jesus is difficult due to the complexity of the original Greek, but perhaps Jesus is referring to the opposition people have had to Him since John first ushered Him onto the world scene.

Alternatively, this statement could refer to the “violent” nature with which people enter the kingdom of heaven. I myself went into Christianity kicking and screaming. I had been a devout and outspoken atheist who did not want to believe the Bible was true. It took a lot out of me when I finally realized I was wrong. No one enters God’s kingdom passively. It requires a complete break – sometimes an emotionally violent break – from what we currently believe.

The last statement by Jesus is very interesting. If the Jews were willing to believe it, John was Elijah (in a spiritual sense) whose return is prophesied by the final Old Testament prophet Malachi [Malachi 4:5]. But the Jews were not willing to believe. Hence John was not Elijah. Isn’t that interesting? Our belief or non-belief has causation.

This means that Elijah has yet to return. Many believe that Elijah will be one of the two witnesses who appear during the Tribulation [Revelation 11:3-12].

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


Knowing Our Bible Eliminates Doubt

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
(Matthew 11:2-6 ESV)

Up until this point in his gospel Matthew has focused on specific events in Jesus’ life which corroborate that Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. In the next couple of chapters Matthew records the reactions to Jesus starting with John the Baptist’s doubt.

John the Baptist had been thrown into prison earlier [Mark 6:17] but while there had heard about the deeds of Jesus such as His miraculous healings. John had been convinced that Jesus was the Messiah [Matthew 3:13-14] but now was beginning to doubt .

The Jews at this time believed that their Messiah would overthrow the Roman government and reestablish Israel as a free, independent nation. Jesus had not done that. Instead He was healing people which was nice but was not what was expected. John, therefore, had begun to wonder if Jesus was truly the Messiah.

Notice that when John was living freely in the desert he had absolutely no doubt who Jesus was. But now he was in prison. He had lived his entire life in wide-open spaces, breathing fresh air. But now he was confined to a small, dark, dirty cell. Certainly this was not a comfortable situation for him.

Doubt can arise because of our situation. But God is God no matter what we are going through. Our circumstances may change for the worse but God is still the same [Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:7 et. al]. He is still in control. He still loves us. Our circumstances should not affect how we view Him.

We also need to realize that God’s truth almost always contradicts what the world thinks. The Jewish community, including John, had certain expectations of their Messiah. But just because they believed these things didn’t make them true. We should never allow worldly truth to influence how we see God. Rather, God’s truth should dictate how we view and understand the world.

All around us the world talks about evolution as if it were fact. All around us the world celebrates homosexuality. All around us the world tacitly approves of sinful behaviors such as lying and greed. It would be very easy to start to wonder if these things were true or if God’s word is true.

The one and only way we can know God’s truth and have complete confidence in Him no matter what our circumstance and no matter what the world tells us is to know our Bibles. The Bible is the primary way God reveals Himself to us. We need to study our Bibles every day. Sadly, many Christians know more about TV characters than they do about God.

That leads many to be offended when life doesn’t turn out the way they expect. When tragedy strikes they blame God instead of trusting Him. They wonder, as John did, whether what they once knew to be true is in-fact true. And as Adam and Eve found out, doubting God leads to sin.

But the one who trusts God in all situations and does not doubt will be blessed.

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


A Reward Awaits Those Who Receive Jesus’ Ambassadors

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.
(Matthew 10:40-42, 11:1 ESV)

Over the past several days we’ve been studying Jesus’ words to His disciples in which He commissions His disciples to go and preach about Him to the surrounding cities. Before they go He gives them specific warnings and instructions.

The things Jesus told the twelve apostles also apply to Christians today. Just like these men, we are to go into the world and proclaim Jesus to those around us. Just as these men were sent so are we.

Along the way we will receive opposition and even persecution, as we have learned. Jesus was very blunt about that. But in today’s passage He tells us that not everyone will reject His people. This is good news. If all we would face was rejection then we wouldn’t have an incentive to go. Knowing that the message we bring will be received by at least a few makes all the rejection worth while.

An ambassador is someone who represents something other than herself, such as a country. When she is accepted or rejected it is not her personally who is being accepted or rejected but that which she represents.

Those of us who are part of God’s family through faith in Jesus are His ambassadors on this earth [John 1:12, 2 Corinthians 5:20]. We represent Him. When people receive us for who we are (because he is…) they receive Jesus. And when they receive us they are receiving the one who sent Jesus – God.

Receiving can take many forms including listening attentively, respecting, showing hospitality (e.g. providing a meal and/or shelter) and myriad other ways. Note that when someone does this they themselves will receive a reward. This is an amazing promise.

Sometimes those of us who are not preachers or missionaries but who support them think our efforts go unnoticed. Not only does God notice our efforts, but we will share in the reward.

All of God’s children are called upon to work together to bring the gospel message of forgiveness through Jesus to the world around us. The apostle Paul metaphorically referred to us all as a “body”. Some of us are the outward parts, like eyes. Some of us are the internal parts, such as the liver. But we all work together [1 Corinthians 12:12-20]. And we will all receive a reward for doing so.

Even something seemingly as insignificant as giving a cup of cold water to a disciple is noticed by God. As we learned a few days ago, God notices every aspect of our lives [Matthew 10:26-31]. What we might consider to be an insignificant gesture is a big deal to God.

Notice the implications of these words. The only way to be in a relationship with God is to be in a relationship with His Son, Jesus. And the only way to be in a relationship with Jesus is through His ambassadors. Those people who claim to follow Jesus but say they hate Christians don’t have a relationship with Jesus at all.

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


We Can Find Life Only By Losing It

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
(Matthew 10:39 ESV)

Over the past couple of days we’ve been studying the words of Jesus in which He boldly states that He is not of this earth but came to the earth from outside it. He also demands that we love Him more than we love our families and ourselves.

Only a human being who was either arrogant or insane would make those claims. But Jesus was no ordinary human being. He was God who stepped into His own creation in bodily form. He told us to love Him above all else because loving anything else will distract us from Him and cause us to end up separated from Him for all eternity.

Earth is nothing more than a fork in road. Everyone who has ever inhabited this planet has a choice as to which way they will go after they die. They can choose the road to hell. Or they can choose the road to heaven [Matthew 7:13-14].

Where we live for all eternity is based upon the choices we make on this earth. To that end Jesus tells us that anyone who finds his/her meaning and purpose in his life here on earth will actually lose their life. They choose not to choose Jesus and will end up in hell.

On the other hand whoever gives up (loses) his/her life on this earth will actually find their life. But notice the caveat Jesus adds: “for my sake“. It’s not enough to live sacrificially. We must sacrifice ourselves for Jesus in order to experience heaven.

Albert Schweitzer was an organist who played concerts in Europe to raise money for his medical missions to Africa. He gave up a lot of his life for the sake of others and today is often revered as having lived sacrificially. But Mr. Schweitzer also wrote book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, in which he states “The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah… never existed.”.

Mr. Schweitzer may have “lost” his life by living sacrificially on this earth. But he did not do it for Jesus’ sake.

Yesterday Jesus commanded us to take up our cross – to give up our lives. It is possible for someone to do that without following Christ, as Mr. Schweitzer apparently did. It’s also possible to claim to follow Jesus without taking up a cross – to continue to live for things of this earth as many do today.

It is only by doing both – following Jesus and losing the love of earthly things – that a person will find the path to eternal life.

Jim Elliot was an American Christian who gave up a future as an architect to bring Jesus to the Auca Indians in Ecuador. He “lost” his life for Jesus’ sake. He also lost his life literally as he was killed at age 28 by members of this tribe.

As Mr. Elliot is famous for saying, “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.


Jesus Makes Very Bold Demands On Our Lives

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 
(Matthew 10:37-38 ESV)

Yesterday we read the audacious words of Jesus in which He stated that He existed outside of the world. In today’s passage Jesus makes another outrageous statement. He demands that He be loved above all else.

Anyone who wishes to follow Jesus – which is the context of today’s passage – must love Jesus supremely. We must be more devoted to Him than we are to our own family (father or mother… son or daughter).

As we learned yesterday, the world is divided because of Jesus, sometimes even people within the same family. In that case a disciple of Jesus must side with Jesus. We must not placate others in order to keep peace. Doing so does no one any good.

When we care more about keeping peace with others we are enablers (to use a psychological term). We are only helping to send them to hell. Sadly, though, this is exactly the behavior the world wants us to exhibit. They call it “tolerance”. Actually, the right word is “selfishness”. When we are more concerned about our earthly human relationships than we are about seeing people know the truth we are acting selfishly.

Anyone who does this is not worthy of Jesus. Jesus’ love for us is so pure and so emphatic that it must be returned in kind. Anything less is an insult to Him as well as a less-than-ideal witness to those around us.

As if the demand to love Jesus more than our own families wasn’t bold enough, Jesus goes on to say that we should also love Him more than we love ourselves by telling us whoever does not take his cross and follow Him is not worthy of Him either.

Anyone hearing Jesus speak these words 2,000 years ago would have known immediately that Jesus was talking about death. Today we wear crosses around our necks as decorations. But the reality is that the cross was an implement of incredible torture leading to death. The only reason for taking up a cross (i.e. carrying a cross) was to die. The Romans forced a condemned criminal to carry their own cross to the place of crucifixion. Once someone took up their cross there was only one outcome. Death.

With this comment Jesus is telling His followers that He demands we be willing to die for Him. And while the obvious reference is to physical death,  Jesus is also referring to the way we live while alive. Just as we should not love family more than Jesus we should love nothing about our lives more than Him. Not our jobs. Not our hobbies. Not money. Not TV. Nothing.

Like yesterday’s comments, today’s comments by Jesus could not be made by a rational-thinking human being. Only God could make such demands on our lives. Jesus was God in human flesh.

It’s certainly acceptable to enjoy many of the things life has to offer. We can enjoy nature and good food. We can enjoy our families and friends. We can enjoy sports and our jobs. But each and every one of those things must come no better than second in our lives. Jesus (who is God) must be first.

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


Jesus Does Not Unite People, He Divides Them

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
(Matthew 10:34-36 ESV)

It’s a common misconception that Jesus came to earth to bring peace. In fact, many critics of Christianity point to the lack of peace on earth as “proof” that Jesus was a hoax. Such critics clearly have never studied the Bible because in today’s passage Jesus makes it very clear that He did not come to bring peace to the earth. Instead He brought a sword.

First, notice that Jesus states that He came and that He came with a purpose. He didn’t say He was born for a purpose. He says He came – clearly stating that He existed outside of this world and entered into it intentionally and willingly.

Here we see another statement by Jesus that He was God. No sane human being would speak of himself this way. God created this world and entered into His own creation in the form of a human being named Jesus.

The message Jesus brought into the world was, and is, a very peaceful one. But ironically, and tragically, Jesus’ message of peace actually results in setting people against each other, including those in one’s own household.

The reason for this is simple. All that Jesus stood for and preached about is diametrically opposed to what the world stands for and preaches. God tells us the proper way to live and how to be blessed, as Jesus taught in the beatitudes [Matthew 5:3-11]. This includes being humble and selfless. But the world doesn’t want any part of that.

God tells us certain things are bad for us and will only cause problems. But the world ignores Him and thinks they know better. God says lying is a sin. The world says it’s just part of life. God says homosexuality is a sin. The world celebrates it. God says abortion is a sin. The world euphemizes it and calls it ‘health care’.

God is not out to harm us. He wants only good for us and tells us exactly how to get it [Jeremiah 29:11]. But we have the audacity to think we know better. We turn what God says is good into bad and what He says is bad into good. And then we wonder why there are so many problems on this earth.

As Jesus taught us recently, His truth cannot coexist with the world. We need to completely dump our worldly values and replace them with God’s if we want to see this world improve. But such a message will only be met with resistance by the world.

Those people who believe what God says and promote His truth therefore become the enemies of the world. The world’s response – which we’re seeing at a rapid rate right now – is to remove Jesus from culture. They think doing so will make the world better. They think they are promoting tolerance. But what they’re actually doing is sealing their, and future generations’, eternal fate in hell.

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


There’s No Such Thing As A Secret Christian

“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 10:32-33 ESV)

Today’s passage is one of the more eye-opening statements by Jesus in the entire Bible. In it He makes it clear that a person’s eternal destiny is tied to one and only one thing – how that person lived in relationship to Jesus Himself.

In this passage Jesus is making it clear that He is the gatekeeper to heaven. No one enters heaven apart from Jesus [John 14:6]. God the Father will only permit those into heaven who Jesus acknowledges before Him.

And Jesus will acknowledge before God only those who acknowledge Him before men. Clearly this eliminates atheists, Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists from heaven. But it also eliminates those who refuse to identify Jesus for who He really is – God. This includes Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and others.

All these people deny Jesus before men. So Jesus will deny them before God the Father and such people will not be admitted to heaven. As we learned a while back, a very small percentage of all the people ever conceived will see heaven; perhaps as low as 7%.

But Jesus’ comments here also apply to those who claim to be one of His disciples. It’s no coincidence that Jesus made these comments in the context of persecution for following Him.

There are many people who tell themselves they are Christians but won’t tell anyone else for fear of ridicule or retribution. They keep their faith secret. But there really is no such thing as a ‘secret Christian’. Such a term is an oxymoron. Anyone who keeps their belief in Jesus to themselves really does not believe in Jesus. And without believing, one cannot enter heaven [John 3:16 et. al]

Faith in Christ is, by definition, public. Everything Jesus did – all the preaching, all the teaching, and all the healing – was done publicly. He never did anything behind closed doors.

He presented God’s truth to the world openly, knowing that He would face opposition, persecution, and ultimately, death for what He said. He did this because He knew that the information He had to offer was more important to others than His own comfort was to Himself. He calls on us – actually, He commands us – to live similarly.

Note that our behavior does not earn us entry into heaven [John 3:3; Ephesians 2:8-9]. That is not what Jesus is saying here. He is saying that our outward behavior (or lack of it) itself is the evidence (or lack of it) of our faith. Hiding our faith means we have no faith.

Every Christian’s life should be lived such that if we were put on trial for our faith there would be zero chance the judge would dismiss the charges due to lack of evidence.

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


Dying Is Not The Worst Thing That Can Happen To A Person

“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
(Matthew 10:26-31 ESV)

Three times in today’s passage Jesus tells His twelve apostles not to be afraid. He was just about to send them out on their own for the first time to spread His message of forgiveness. But before doing so He had warned them that they would face opposition.

Jesus’ words were not only applicable to this first training mission, but to all His subsequent followers throughout history who bring His message to the world. Opposition to Jesus has existed since He walked this earth. This is because His teachings go against what the world values. For that reason persecution of Christians is a given until He returns.

But no matter what we endure – even if it is covered (hidden from the rest of the world) it will be revealed. It will be known. Maybe not by other men, but definitely by God. While we do know of some persecution going on around the world against Christians in places like Iraq and Syria, I’d guess we know only a small percentage of what is really happening. But God sees 100% of it.

Rather than fear other human beings who can do no more than kill the body we should fear God who can also destroy the soul by sending a person to hell. As fearful as dying might be – especially as the result of direct persecution – that is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.

The worst thing that can happen to a person is dying without having their sins forgiven. Such a person is ineligible to enter heaven and will have to spend eternity separated from God. We call that hell. Certainly the prospect of spending eternity in hell is to be feared much more than dying on this earth.

And while going through tough times on earth might lead us to think that God does not care about us, nothing could be further from the truth. God cares for us even more than He cares for sparrows which sell two for a penny.

God notices when one of them falls to the ground. The Greek word for “fall” here does not mean death. It means to land on the ground. God notices everything a sparrow does, even when it does something as routine as landing on the ground. God knows every detail of these sparrows lives.

He knows every detail about our lives too, even details we don’t know like how many hairs are on our head. If even these mundane details are noticed by God how much more so does He notice when His children go through persecution.

We can be sure that God sees all the ridicule, all the beheadings, all the suffering. He’s keeping notes. And while He’s willing to forgive anyone who commits these heinous acts, He will hold people accountable who don’t seek forgiveness.

The scales of eternal justice are currently uneven. But some day they will be in balance. God will make sure of it.

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


Following Jesus Comes With A Cost

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
(Matthew 10:24-25 ESV)

In today’s passage Jesus sums up His comments about the persecution His followers will face. Once again notice how blunt Jesus is. He makes it clear that following Him comes at a cost, both from within ourselves and from the world.

By definition a disciple is not above his teacher. Disciples (i.e. students) learn from teachers and therefore cannot be more learned than they. Followers of Christ learn from Him. Notice that this implies submission and humility. We cannot learn from someone if we think we have nothing to learn or if we think the teacher has nothing to teach. We must willingly and intentionally place ourselves under their tutelage.

Likewise a slave is not above his master. A slave serves his master by placing himself under their authority. Note that Jesus is not advocating forced slavery which is degrading. He is talking about voluntary service on behalf of another as a result of recognizing the other’s superiority.

These are not easy roles for man to accept. It’s easy to follow someone when they perform miracles and heal your illnesses. But when they call us to lives of humility, submission, and service we tend to want nothing to do with them. This is why many people stopped following Jesus [John 6:60-66].

But there is a purpose in this. The goal of a disciple is to be like his teacher. The goal of a servant is to be like his master. Disciples acquire the same knowledge their teacher has. A slave acquires the same skills their master has. (As an aside, this statement proves Jesus is not referencing forced slavery because under a such a scenario the slave never became “like” the master.)

It is only through humility and hard work that one can acquire knowledge and skills. We can then become teachers/masters ourselves [Matthew 28:19]. But keep in mind – we become “like” Jesus but we don’t become equal to Him. He is still God and we are still not. We will always be in a subordinate position to Him because He is infinite and we are finite. We can never be all that He is.

God’s goal for His children is to become like Jesus in the way we think and act [Romans 8:29] . But we have to take the bad with the good. Once we become “like” Christ we can expect to be treated the same way He was treated. Jesus was called Beezebul which is another term for Satan [Matthew 9:34, 12:24; Mark 3:22]. Jesus was ridiculed, mocked, beaten, and eventually killed for who He was and what He stood for.

Those of us who are His disciples/slaves should not be surprised when (not if) we suffer the same. It is on account of being associated with Christ that people will hate us [Matthew 10:22; John 15:18-19].

This is a hard message for people to accept. But God calls on us to walk through the narrow gate [Matthew 7:13-14]. The road on the other side of that gate is definitely not easy, as Jesus promises. This is why many cannot accept Jesus’ teaching. To truly follow Christ is to share in His suffering [Philippians 3:10]

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


God Is Looking For Endurers, Not Martyrs

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
(Matthew 10:22b-23 ESV)

Jesus continues His warning about persecution today. Over the past few days we have studied this passage from Jesus which is mostly prophetic. Just a short time after giving these warnings to His apostles Jesus would be crucified and would ascend into heaven. It was beginning at this point and continuing on through the present that this persecution of His followers would occur. It will not cease until Jesus returns sometime in the future.

In today’s passage Jesus tells us that the one who endures to the end will be saved. Jesus is not saying that enduring persecution results in salvation because it is the fact that we are saved and follow Jesus that brought the persecution in the first place. We also know that salvation can in no way be earned – it is a free gift from God [Ephesians 2:8-9].

We do not earn salvation by endurance but rather we prove it. Only those who are absolutely sure of their salvation will withstand ridicule, bullying, physical torture, or even death because they know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they cannot be separated from Christ. Any pain that someone brings upon a believer – be it mental pain or physical – is only temporary. Those who are against Christ can only kill the body. They cannot kill the soul.

A true believer also knows that suffering persecution is a witness to the persecutor of the reality of Jesus. We stand up under harsh treatment without taking revenge as a demonstration that we are fully confident in Jesus.

Having said all that, Jesus does not condone seeking martyrdom. If we are persecuted in one town we should flee to the next, if we can. While sometimes we can’t flee, like our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria who are being killed by ISIS, we should if we can. God never calls on us to put up with harsh treatment if we can avoid it, even if we have to run away from it.

This is exactly what Paul did. He endured ridicule, beatings, imprisonment in many of the places to which he brought the gospel. But when things got so bad that he could no longer be effective he moved on to another place [Acts 12-14, 17].

Jesus’ comment about the apostles not going through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes is difficult. Scholars who are much more learned than I debate what Jesus is actually saying here, so I won’t draw any conclusions of my own. The most likely reference seems to be to the judgment God brought upon Jerusalem less than 40 years after Jesus spoke these words.

As there was tremendous persecution of Christians at this time by both the Jews and Romans the apostles would have had to flee from one town to another quite often. Before they could get to all the towns in Israel, Jesus would have “come” with judgment on Jerusalem in the form of the Roman army which He did in 70 AD.

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



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