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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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God Gives His Persecuted Children The Words To Speak


“When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
(Matthew 10:19-20 ESV)


In yesterday’s passage God promised those of us who are His children would be persecuted by worldly religions, government, and even our own family because of our association with Jesus. But today He gives us another, more comforting promise.

When we appear before those in authority on account of our beliefs God promises to be with us in the form of His Spirit. Therefore there is no reason for us to be anxious about how to speak or what to say. The words we need will be given to us. God Himself will speak through us so that it is not us who speaks to these authorities but God Himself.

Notice that just like persecution was a matter of “when” not “if”, God tells us that He “will” give us the words to say to these people. There is no doubt. This is a promise from God.

For this reason there is no reason for us to fear other people. The worst men can do to us is kill our body which is temporary anyway. But they cannot touch our soul [Matthew 10:28], which is eternal. When we are persecuted we should simply rely on God. If we try to take matters into our own hands – if we let fear direct us – we will likely make the situation worse [Proverbs 29:25]. Rather we need to be a conduit through which God can speak to our enemies.

There is a divine purpose in persecution. Jesus says that when His followers are brought before leaders and authorities for His sake it will be a testimony to them [Matthew 10:18]. In other words, in the midst of hostile and even painful persecution God is at work. He is using the persecution itself to teach the persecutors about Jesus and how they can have eternal life. He does this through giving us the words to speak.

The very things that evil men do they think they are doing for God. But actually God is allowing them to do it so He can speak to them [John 16:2]. God can and does use all things for good, even evil [Romans 8:28].

None of us would want to be ridiculed, imprisoned, beheaded, or burned alive. But we have no guarantee that these things will not happen. God didn’t shield His own son from evil so we should not expect to be shielded from it either [John 15:18; Romans 8:32].

All the persecution of Christians going on around the world right now is a good reminder of God’s promise. Many of them have been shot, beheaded, or crucified. I can’t imagine going through such a scenario. I could only hope that I would not fear being put to death and instead would use the last remaining moments of my life to demonstrate the love God has for my enemies by allowing Him to speak through me the words they need to hear.

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

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Christians Will Be Persecuted; That Is A Promise


“Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles… Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake
(Matthew 10:17-18, 21-22a ESV)


We continue reading Jesus’ prepatory words to His disciples before they go out on their first practice evangelistic mission today. Previously He had told them where to go and what to say. He also told them they would receive opposition and how to react to it. Today He tells them where that opposition will come from.

Opposition to Jesus comes from three sources: false religions (synagogues), government (governors and kings), and family (brother… father… children).

The apostles did not face such persecution at this time. Jesus’ words here are prophetic. This persecution would happen after He returned to heaven and will continue until His return.

We certainly see this in our world today. False religions like Islam are rapidly persecuting Christians. Governments are cracking down on Christians who want to live by their beliefs. Even families are polarized over the message of Jesus.

Jesus Himself was a victim of this persecution. The false religious leaders (Jews) worked together with the government in power (Romans) to crucify Jesus because Jesus was a threat to their corrupt and misguided way of life. The apostles themselves eventually lost their lives similarly.

Notice that Jesus is promising there will be opposition. Four times in today’s verses Jesus uses the word will. He doesn’t say “if”. He declares that this will happen. When we studied the Beatitudes recently we saw that Jesus promised a blessing to those who are persecuted on His behalf [Matthew 5:10-12]. Today Jesus gives us the promise of that persecution.

God doesn’t want us to be naive. He wants us to understand reality of evil. Christians should never be fooled into thinking the world is a safe place. It’s sometimes easy in the relatively-peaceful Western world to think that evil could never happen here. But it is happening all over the world. Our Christian brothers and sisters are losing their lives because they are children of the one and only true God. Someday soon it will happen here as well.

But notice something cool. Whenever a Christian is hated there is a purpose: to bear witness before them. We are there for [Christ’s] sake. Being persecuted is an opportunity to reveal the truth of Jesus to those who desperately need to know Him.

I can’t imagine the fear that my Christian brothers and sisters are facing in places like Syria right now. I hope to never go through what they are going through. But nevertheless, God works all things for good, even the horrible things like the persecution these people are facing.

Of course, Satan is behind all these sources of persecution [Ephesians 6:12]. Human beings are simply his agents, albeit unsuspectingly. It is through human beings that Satan oppresses, slanders, imprisons, and kills God’s people.

Jesus tells us all this not to frighten us, but to warn us. He does not want us to stop bringing His message to a dark world. But we do need to realize that this message will not likely be welcomed with open arms. At best people will ignore it. At worst they’ll try to kill it.

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

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Christians Are Like Sheep In A World Of Wolves


“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 
(Matthew 10:16 ESV)


We are currently studying a passage in Matthew’s gospel in which Jesus is instructing His twelve disciples before they go out on their own to practice what they have observed Jesus doing. Jesus is prepping these young men for the time when He will leave earth and they will be left to carry on the work He had started.

Notice just how blunt Jesus is. He doesn’t sugar coat their mission. He makes it very clear that this will be difficult and that these men will be like sheep in the midst of wolves. Sheep are certainly not safe in the presence of wolves. Their very lives are in danger in such a situation.

Up until this point the opposition to Jesus has been pretty mild. But it will get more intense over time eventually culminating in Him being put to death by the Jews and Romans.

For this reason those of us who are God’s children [John 1:12] must be wise as serpents. When evangelizing non-believers we must wisely look for the best way to deal with them. We must not vilify them but instead we must glorify God.

This is exactly what Jesus did when He was confronted by the Pharisees [Mark 12:13-17]. Jesus neither defended or condemned the Roman government in response to the Pharisees’ trick question. Instead, His reply focused on God.

Our approach should be similar. We should not get dragged into useless arguments that only cause someone who is already against Jesus to dig in his heels.

At the same time we must be innocent as doves. We must present God’s word in its pure form. We must not dilute it or compromise it in any way. That means simply telling others what the Bible says. No more. No less.

These very instructions from Jesus to His apostles are applicable to us today. Christians represent all that the world hates. The world hates God and therefore they will hate those who belong to God [John 15:18]. For this reason we must have a sense of propriety in how we act towards others. The world is watching our behavior and will jump on any miscue to validate their own opposition to God.

Of course, opposition to Jesus is even more intense today. Christians all over the world are losing their lives because of their faith. This will only get worse. Jesus doesn’t deny this. He has no delusions of reality. That is why He is giving the instructions we are currently studying.

Jesus is our model. Even though He faced opposition He never sinned. He never returned evil for evil. Like Jesus, when we are persecuted we must endure it. And we must bless those who persecute us [1 Corinthians 4:12-13].

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

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Seek Out Those Who Are Open To The Gospel


“And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
(Matthew 10:11-15 ESV)


Yesterday Jesus prepped the apostles for their first evangelical mission by telling them how to prepare for it. Today He continues with His instructions by telling them how to interact with the various people they will encounter.

We know from the parallel passage in Mark that Jesus paired up the apostles and they likely went to different locations [Mark 6:7]. When each pair entered a town or village they were to find a worthy place to stay. In other words, they were to locate a spiritually strong family and stay with them. This was to protect them and also to give their message credence. Hanging out with ungodly people would have harmed their reputation and the message they were trying to deliver.

Moreover, they were to remain there until they departed the town. They weren’t to be looking for a more comfortable home with better accommodations. Their stay would be short so where they stayed wasn’t all that important. Their focus was to be on their ministry not their own comfort. A godly family who may not have had the most fancy home to offer would suit them just fine.

I think Christians today can apply this to their jobs. No matter where we work we are God’s ambassadors on this earth. Our jobs may not be great. Our bosses may be difficult. The pay may be low. But all of that is temporary. Our temporary earthly discomfort is of little significance compared to the value of seeing others come to know Christ. We should not be job hoppers who are constantly on the look out for something better. We should stay where we are until God calls us to something else.

Things may be tough but quitting on a relationship is not the answer. It’s better to be like Paul who learned to be content in all circumstances because he was not focused on himself but on seeing the gospel spread to others [Philippians 4:11].

Notice also that Jesus tells His apostles to seek out those who are receptive to hearing the gospel. If someone is hostile to the gospel we are to have nothing to do with them [Proverbs 9:8-9]. It’s very unlikely we’d convince them to change their way of thinking anyway. Scoffers tend to dig in their heels. God will deal with such people. And He’ll deal with them in a way that is even worse than the way He dealt with Sodom and Gomorrah. That won’t be good.

This command from Jesus was not meant to keep the gospel message from anyone. It was a strategic command. Rather than spend too much time talking with someone who would not be swayed, the apostles were to spend their limited time with those who did have an interest in hearing more about God.

Such people may be hard to find. But they’re out there. Like the apostles, we should seek them out.

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

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The Most Important Information In The World Is Not For Sale


“You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.
(Matthew 10:8b-10 ESV)


Today we continue reading the instructions Jesus gave the twelve apostles before sending them out on their first evangelistic mission. Jesus, the consummate leader, ensures that His underlings know exactly what they are supposed to do.

One of the things they are to do is not expect any payment for their services. Just as they received the gospel from Jesus without paying they are to give it to others just as freely. There were not to withhold the vital information of the gospel or refuse to heal someone in exchange for payment.

Anyone who could heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons could certainly make a lot of money from those who desperately needing such services. But Jesus commands the apostles to use the miraculous power given to them from God for His glory, not their own prosperity.

Back then there was no shortage of people who claimed to be able to do these very things. Just ask the woman we recently read about who suffered from a bleeding disorder for twelve years. She had spent every penny she had trying to find someone who could cure her. But no one did [Mark 5:25-26]. No doubt many of those she consulted were frauds who preyed on her desperation.

Those who spend their lives serving God, such as our modern-day pastors, are not to sell their services to the highest bidder. While they are allowed to accept financial support from those they teach, they are not to be motivated by money. It is their responsibility to teach. It is the people’s responsibility to support them [1 Peter 5:2; Titus 1:7; Galatians 6:6].

This is one way we can identify false teachers. If someone claims to serve God but is motivated by financial gain, they are likely not really a true teacher.

Instead of demanding money a true godly teacher trusts in God to supply all his needs [Philippians 4:19]. To that end, Jesus tells His apostles not to acquire gold or silver or copper (i.e. money) before their trip. That is, they were not to fundraise. Nor were they to bring an extra tunic or sandals or staff. God would meet their needs through divinely-inspired hospitality along the way.

No one who teaches God’s word – such a pastor or someone who writes a blog – should do so with the intent of making a living. They should do so simply because they love God and want others to learn about Him. Support, if any, will come from God through others.

Notice that Jesus reminds these men that they are laborers. They would be serving Christ by serving others. But while the apostles were going to be teaching others, they themselves would be taught a lesson in how to trust God.

The most important information in the world – how to avoid hell and make it to heaven – is not for sale. It is freely given by God.

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

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Just Tell People What The Bible Says


These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.
(Matthew 10:5-8a ESV)


Up until now Jesus’s core twelve disciples have watched Him as He carried out His three-step approach to evangelism: proclaiming, teaching, and helping. Now it is time for them to try this for themselves.

This is a proven way to mentor others. A teacher will do something while his students observe. Then the teacher allows the students to try it for themselves. That is exactly what is happening here.

To that end, a good teacher does what he can to make sure his students succeed. The initial assignment he gives is focused and is designed for success. Students can be discouraged if they fail initially, especially when they are being mentored by someone they highly respect, such as Jesus. To avoid that, Jesus gives them clear and meaningful instructions.

Jesus tells the twelve to go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans (who were a mixed Gentile/Jew race). Rather, they were go to to the house of Israel. Note that this is for the sake of this assignment only. Jesus is not withholding His message of salvation from the non-Jews. We know this because He has been preaching in a predominately Gentile area Himself and has healed Gentiles. Also, later on Jesus will tell the apostles to take His message to the entire world [Matthew 28:19].

Jesus’ restriction here is meant to provide the best chance of success for the apostles, who were Jewish. They understood the Jews and Jewish customs. They did not understand the Gentiles. Similarly, it would be difficult for me to minister to people in China because I do not understand the people or their culture. I would probably fail. By constraining the scope of their mission Jesus was eliminating a potential point of failure.

Also, it was God’s design that His message be taken first to the Jew who would then take it to the Gentile [Romans 1:16]. While some Gentiles did believe before this, in both the Old and New Testaments [Joshua 2:9,11], it would not be until the Great Commission that the message of God’s forgiveness would be intentionally taken to the Gentiles by Paul who was Jewish but who grew up in a Gentile region.

Notice that Jesus calls Israel lost sheep. The Jews didn’t see themselves as lost. They thought (and still think) they are the only ones going to heaven. But Jesus makes it clear that they need His message as much as anyone.

After defining the exact scope of the assignment, Jesus then gives exact instructions. He tells the apostles exactly what to say and do. Notice that the message the apostles were to bring was the exact same one as John the Baptist and Jesus Himself preached [Matthew 3:1, 4:17].

God doesn’t ask us to be creative. We aren’t to embellish the Bible’s message. We aren’t to cloud the gospel with political or social themes such as racism or evolution. We are to simply tell people what God says. No less. No more.

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

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