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Jesus Was The Humble Messiah Who Brought Peace

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
(Matthew 21:1-11 ESV)

After healing the two blind men yesterday Jesus continues His way toward Jerusalem where His life would end in about a week. In today’s scene Jesus is in Bethphage near the Mount of Olives one-half mile east of Jerusalem. It is the location from which Jesus ascended into heaven and the location to which He will return [Zechariah 14:4].

The purpose of Matthew’s gospel is to prove to his Jewish audience that Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecies written hundreds of years earlier. One of those prophecies was that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem on a donkey [Zechariah 9:9]. By riding the donkey Jesus again declared that He was the Messiah – the one who would release people from their oppression, although the people were unaware of such significance.

Some Bible critics will claim that Jesus intentionally manipulated events in order to convince people that He was the Messiah. This prophecy of riding a donkey into Jerusalem would certainly be an easy one to fulfill if that were the case. And if it were the only prophecy about the Messiah one could certainly make the claim that Jesus was an imposter.

But Jesus could not have controlled many other events in His life that were prophesied including where He would be born, the manner of His birth, His family’s exile into Egypt, and His resurrection.

Jesus also demonstrates His omniscience – and thereby again proving His deity – by knowing exactly where these animals were, how many there would be, that one would be a mother with her colt and that the disciples would be questioned as they untied them [Luke 19:33-34].

Notice that there were two animals, a foal and its mother. Not wanting to cause emotional distress for either by separating them Jesus commands that both be brought to Him. Yesterday we saw that even though He was on His way to die Jesus took the time to meet the needs of two blind men. Here we see Him also care for animals.

Notice also that Jesus rode the younger animal which was unbroken [Luke 19:30]. Unbroken animals can’t normally be ridden. I wonder if these animals knew what was going on and knew who Jesus was and were therefore submissive to Him.

Riding a donkey was a humble act. King’s rode a stallion when they wanted to declare their greatness or when they came to conquer. But when a king rode a donkey he was sending a message of peace. Jesus is our king who brought peace between God and humanity by bearing the burden of the world’s sins on the cross. How appropriate that He would therefore ride a beast of burden.

As He comes to Jerusalem in today’s passage Jesus didn’t come to conquer. He came to be crucified. But when Jesus next comes to Jerusalem He will ride a stallion and He will make war on His enemies [Revelation 19:11-16].

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



The Greatest Prayer One Could Pray

And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
(Matthew 20:29-34 ESV)

Today we conclude the story of Jesus and the two blind men which we began yesterday. They took advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have Jesus heal them. Jesus’ response to these men is no less eye-opening than the men’s approach to Him.

Notice Jesus stopped and called them to them. These men were blind. It would have been difficult for them to find their way to Jesus if He kept moving. So He stopped and directed them to Him with the sound of His voice.

This is exactly how God is with us. He is not a moving target. He calls us to Him so we can find Him. Nor is He silent – He is giving us instructions on how to find Him everywhere we look. All of life points to God – everything from nature itself to the family unit [Ephesians 5:25-33; Revelation 21:2, 9].

Jesus then asks them what they want Him to do for them. Jesus was God. He never asked a question because He didn’t know the answer. In this case He simply giving the men a chance to ask Him to give them sight.

Sometimes in life we don’t get things because we don’t ask. I once saw a group of teenage boys trying to encourage their friend to ask out a girl in a food court. I don’t know if he ever did. But I know that if he didn’t he didn’t get the date.

Similarly God is willing to do things for us. But we need to ask Him. If what we ask for is within His will for us, He will do it.

As soon as Jesus touched their eyes they immediately recovered their sight (which implies that they were once able to see) and followed Him. The appropriate response to meeting Jesus is to follow Him.

Notice also that Jesus had pity on these men. Life on earth is tough. It’s a lot tougher than God ever intended it to be. God created Eden. We created the mess that is now the planet. But God understands. He isn’t mad at us. He isn’t looking for opportunities to punish us. He’s compassionate with us and is more than willing to help us out of the mess we’ve made.

Jesus was on his way to die. He would be dead in a little over a week and He knew it. Yet he wasn’t focused on himself. He took time to address the needs of others. This is exactly why he came to earth [Matthew 20:28].

The request of these men was short and simple yet profound: “Lord, let our eyes be opened”. There is no greater prayer a person could pray. Everyone needs to have their spiritual eyes opened. We all need to see Jesus, receive the healing He offers (the forgiveness of our sins), and follow Him. And if we ask Him, He will make that happen.

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


The Bible Packs A Lot Into A Little

And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
(Matthew 20:29-34 ESV)

I like to say the Bible should not be read it should be studied and today and tomorrow’s passages are a great example. These passages are brief and seemingly offer nothing new compared with passages we’ve previously studied. But as we’ll see they are filled with many spiritual lessons.

Jesus and His disciples (they) were in the area of Jericho, on their way to Jerusalem where Jesus would be crucified about eight days later. A great crowd was following Him. Jesus was the equivalent of the modern-day rock star. He couldn’t go out in public without people surrounding Him.

Two blind men were sitting by the roadside and they heard that Jesus was passing by. Wanting to be healed of their blindness they cried out to Jesus calling Him “Lord and “Son of David“, the latter term a recognition that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah promised in the Old Testament and who would be a descendant of King David.

Due to disease, physical blindness was not uncommon back then. Blind people were outcasts from society and had to resort to begging to survive. But even though these men did not have physical sight they had spiritual sight. It’s often the case that those people who have the least in life are the most likely to find Jesus because the “things” of this world don’t distract them from spiritual realities. They have nothing on this earth and so they turn their attention to eternity.

Notice the crowd tries to silence them but they simply cried out all the more. These men would not be deterred. Too often people stay away from Jesus because their friends or family will be critical or will make fun of them. I can vouch for that. But a person’s eternity is too important to let others control it, especially those who don’t know what they’re talking about.

This was the one-and-only chance these men had to be healed. They could have let themselves be silenced, hoping to encounter Jesus another time. But that wasn’t going to happen. Jesus was never going to pass by them again (although they didn’t know that). In about eight days Jesus would be dead. They took advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself. When opportunity knocks its best to answer the door because it may not knock again.

Many people put off learning about God while they pursue their careers and earthly ambitions. They think “some day” I’ll check out the Bible to see if it’s true. But in the end they never get around to finding salvation through Christ so they die without having their sins forgiven. How sad. There is no better time to seek Jesus than right now [Jeremiah 29:13].

Today’s passage is only 67 words. But it teaches us a lot. This is one of the great things about the Bible. It packs a lot into a little. Tomorrow we’ll study – and learn a lot from – Jesus’ response to these men.

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


How To Achieve Greatness

And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:24-28 ESV)

Yesterday we studied the audacious request by James and John to be appointed to the top two posts within Jesus’ kingdom. It’s no surprise that when the other ten disciples heard it they were indignant at the two brothers. The pride of James and John created a schism within the disciples. This is not a surprise either. Pride ruins relationships. Jesus, being the great leader that He is, defuses the situation by calling them to him and teaching them the true path to greatness.

James and John were pursuing greatness as the world (the Gentiles) does: through political power-plays, and currying favor based on familial relationships. Moreover, people in power exercise authority over others in an attempt to exalt themselves and promote their “greatness”.

But, as usual, Jesus turns this type of thinking upside down. The way of the world is never God’s way [Isaiah 55:8-9]. Jesus tells us that whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave. The true path to greatness is not power. It is service.

God calls on all His children to serve one another [Romans 12:1, 11; Galatians 5:13 et. al]. We are not to pursue selfish ambitions [Philippians 2:3-4]. We are not to seek glory for ourselves. Instead we should humbly give up our lives for the sake of others.

This is exactly how Jesus modeled greatness. He did not come to earth to be served but to serve. He left heaven, giving up His deity to become one of His own creations. He served us by teaching us how to live.

He also served us by dying on a cross to pay for the sins that we – not He – committed. As a result, God exalted Him above all else [Philippians 2:5-8]. He gave His life as a ransom for many. The definition of “ransom” is “payment made for the release of a prisoner”. Jesus paid for our sins setting us free from an eternity in hell, which is the penalty for sin [Romans 6:23].

Notice that Jesus didn’t give His life as a ransom for “all”, but for many. Only those who believe they are sinners and who seek and accept God’s offer of forgiveness have their sins paid for by Jesus, become part of God’s family, and enter heaven [John 1:12, 3:16; Acts 16:31 et. al]

To be sure, it is not bad to pursue positions of influence in the world [1 Timothy 3:1]. But it is wrong to pursue the worldly path to greatness and use our positions of influence to control others. Rather, the higher up we go within an organization the more of a servant we should become. Too often, though, rising through an organization chart inflates our ego and bolsters our pride. It is then that we are ripe for a fall [Proverbs 16:18].

According to the world the more people you have beneath you the greater you are. But according to God, you become greater the further beneath others you intentionally place yourself.

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


Following Jesus Means Suffering As He Did

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
(Matthew 20:20-23 ESV)

The passage we study today is quite amazing. Just a couple of days ago Jesus had promised His twelve disciples they would sit on twelve thrones in His kingdom [Matthew 19:28]. He then told His disciples that He would be arrested, beaten, and crucified when He got to Jerusalem in just a few days [Matthew 20:17-19]. Yet incredibly, these men (and their mother) were more concerned about their future than Jesus’. They also apparently didn’t believe Him when He explicitly told them He was going to be die.

These two disciples were James and John, who were sons of Zebedee [Matthew 4:21]. What makes this even more interesting is that we know from other gospel writers that James and John were Jesus’ first cousins (their mother was Jesus’ mother’s sister). Apparently they tried to use their familial relationship with Jesus to their favor.

These two men were not exactly quiet and shy. Jesus had nicknamed them “sons of thunder” [Mark 3:17] for a reason. They were bold and brash. Their lofty opinion of themselves – that they deserved the #2 and #3 place in Jesus’ kingdom – is evidence of that.

But they clearly did not know what they were asking. They claimed they were able to drink the cup that Jesus was to drink. But they did not understand the implications of their request.

To “drink the cup” of someone else was an expression meaning to endure the same fate as another. The cup that Jesus was about to drink was the cup of suffering and death, which He had just told them.

If James and John really understood Jesus’ words they would never have claimed to be willing and able to accept His fate as their own. But they were too obtuse and prideful to understand. Their concern for themselves and what would be their reward for following Jesus made them unable to see the reality unfolding before them.

Such is the blinding nature of self-centeredness. When we care solely about ourselves we lose the ability to care about others.

Notice Jesus’ response to them. He knew they did not understand what they were saying. Such is God with all of us: patient and understanding even when we say and do the most ridiculous, arrogant things. Instead Jesus continued to live by example as He submits James’ and John’s fate to His father.

Jesus told James and John they will drink the cup of suffering He drank. History show us this came true but in different ways for each. James would become the first of the disciples killed for his faith shortly after Jesus’ ascension into heaven [Acts 12:1-2]. John would live several more decades facing persecution for his beliefs [Revelation 1:9].

Jesus calls all His followers to take up their cross – suffer for the sake of His name [Luke 9:23]. That suffering may be a martyr’s death like James or a prolonged persecuted life like John, or anything in between.

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


Jesus’ Crucifixion Was Not The Result of Miscalculation Or Manipulation

And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
(Matthew 20:17-19 ESV)

With only a couple of weeks left to live, Jesus is going up to Jerusalem in today’s passage.

This was the time of the Passover when many pilgrims would also be making their way to Jerusalem so the roads were likely crowded. At one point on the way Jesus took the twelve disciples aside and told them that He will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes (the Jewish religious leaders) and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles (the occupying Roman government) to be mocked and flogged and crucified. This is the third (and final) time Jesus mentioned His upcoming death to the disciples but this version is the most explicit [Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23].

There are many Bible critics who claim that Jesus tried to launch a coup against Rome but failed and was crucified. If that were the case He displayed very little confidence in Himself prior. He also had no army and no weapons. He simply had a ragtag group of teenagers who (as we’ll see tomorrow) were following Him mainly for their own personal gain. The idea that Jesus was a failed rebel cannot be supported.

Neither can the idea that Jesus manipulated His own death. First, no one would want to intentionally be crucified. Such a person would not be of sound mind. Second, the details of Jesus’ arrest, torture, and crucifixion – which He gives here – debunk such a notion. Jesus knew He would be betrayed (delivered), He knew exactly who would be involved and He knew He would be flogged (not every crucifixion victim was scourged).

Jesus’ death was not the result of some miscalculation or manipulation on His part. He knew exactly what was going to happen to Him and He made it known on three recorded instances. As a small boy Jesus knew He was part of God’s plan [Luke 2:49]. He knew He was going to Jerusalem to be the perfect, innocent sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.

All the pain and suffering Jesus was about to go through were a necessary part of God’s plan that He put into effect in the Garden of Eden when the first sin was committed [Genesis 3:15]. And Jesus, who was with God from the beginning [John 1:2], was well aware of what was going to happen.

The next several days in Jesus’ life were going to be quite tragic. He would suffer much emotional and physical pain. He would hang on a cross bearing the weight of God’s wrath upon every sin of mankind ever committed and ever to be committed.

But He also knew the rest of the story. He knew that He would be raised from the grave on the third day in a triumphal display of God’s victory over sin. His resurrection would make it possible for each and every human being to have their sins forgiven and therefore spend eternity with God in heaven where no sin is allowed.

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


God Operates On A System Of Undeserved Grace

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”
(Matthew 20:1-16 ESV)

Today Jesus tells another parable about the kingdom of heaven. This one is in the context of the rich young ruler who refused to place Jesus first in his life and the subsequent question by Peter about what he and the other eleven disciples, who gave up all they had to follow Jesus, would get out of doing so. Yesterday Jesus told the disciples they would receive, among other things, eternal life. In today’s parable Jesus explains the process by which God allocates eternal life.

The parable is pretty self-explanatory but notice that when it came time to pay the laborers the owner of the vineyard commanded that the last be paid first and the first be paid last. This was probably unusual but Jesus tells the story this way to make a point.

The laborers who worked all day watched as those who worked much less received a denarius. They thought, therefore, that they would receive more. But they received only what they agreed upon. Even so, they were disappointed and begrudged the owner’s generosity towards the other workers.

Notice that no one was treated unfairly in this parable, even though some thought they had been. Everyone received no less than what they expected although some received more.

Life was tough back then and if a man went home at the end of the day with no money it likely meant he, his wife, and his kids didn’t eat the next day. So having a full day’s wage – regardless of whether they worked a full day – was a blessing to these men and was distributed simply out of the goodness of the landowner’s heart.

Similarly, God loves to shower His grace on those among His followers who are the most unworthy in this world’s eyes, like the owner did with the late workers, who were probably the least skilled. This may not be how most of us would operate. But God doesn’t do things the way we would [Isaiah 55:8-9].

Human beings operate on a system of earned merit. God operates on a system of undeserved grace.

Regarding eternal life, which is the context of this parable, all human beings, because of our sin, deserve to be separated from God forever in hell. Those who have accepted God’s call to join His family will receive what God promised – eternity in heaven – and, therefore, have infinitely more than we could ever deserve.

Like in the parable, some may have served God more while others served Him less. Some will be saved earlier in life, some later. Some may even be saved just before they die like the thief on the cross [Luke 23:39-43]. Some may have come from typical backgrounds while others lived dubious lives. None of that should matter to us.

No one who has been saved from the penalty of their sins has any reason to complain about or question the validity of the salvation anyone else receives. God’s grace is available and equitable towards all. He will always give whatever is right.

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


Jesus Will Reward Those Who Forsake The World To Follow Him

Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
(Matthew 19:27-30 ESV)

After Jesus challenged the rich young ruler to give up all this world has to offer and follow Him, the man decided it was too high a price to pay and he walked away. Jesus then explained how hard it is for someone who is wealthy to enter heaven. In reply Peter points out that, unlike the rich young ruler, he and the other eleven disciples had left everything and followed Jesus. He wondered what would be their reward for doing so.

Notice how Peter asked the question but Jesus response was directed to them. Either Peter was speaking for the twelve or Jesus knew that the other eleven were wondering the same thing. Jesus tells them that they will receive an amazing reward both on this earth and in heaven.

The reward that the disciples would receive would come in the new world, when the Son of Man (a reference to Jesus Himself) will sit on His glorious throne. When Jesus returns to earth at some point in the future He will reign over it. The earth will be very different than it is now [Isaiah 2:2-3; 11:9, 32:16-18 et. al]. One thousand years later this earth will be destroyed and a new earth will be created which Jesus will reign over for all eternity [Revelation 21:1].

During Jesus’ eternal reign the twelve disciples will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Note that Judas clearly won’t be one of the twelve, having forfeited his eternity. He was later replaced by Matthias [Acts 1:12-26] who will be one of the twelve reigning with Christ.

But the rewards for following Jesus aren’t limited to the twelve disciples. They extend to everyone who has left their life behind for Jesus’ name’s sake. Following Jesus comes with a cost. Sometimes we have to leave our original families. This is certainly true of Muslim and Hindu converts to Christianity whose family members often turn violent against them.

Notice too that just forsaking worldliness does not lead to heaven. A self-imposed ascetic lifestyle does not win favor with God. The only value in leaving the world behind is when we do it for the purpose of following and promoting Jesus.

When we do, Jesus promises to pay us back a hundredfold. This is a metaphorical reference as obviously we aren’t going to receive one-hundred fathers or mothers. We also will inherit eternal life.

Receiving a reward from Jesus that lasts eternity in exchange for giving up the temporary things of this world is a great deal. As Jim Elliot famously said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.

The world values the accumulation of things, money, and experiences. Those who have more of these are looked up to and those with less are looked down upon. But the kingdom of God operates oppositely. Becoming “last” in the eyes of world results in becoming “first” in God’s view. And vice-versa.

Any apparent earthly success will count for nothing.

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


The Poverty Of Riches

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
(Matthew 19:23-26 ESV)

Yesterday we saw the rich young ruler walk away from Jesus because he valued his possessions more than he valued eternity in heaven. He gave up a permanent place in God’s presence for all eternity rather than give up his earthly treasures which he could not keep anyway. Today Jesus comments on this man’s decision.

In fact, what Jesus says is so important that He says it twice in this one passage and makes it clear that we should take heed of His word (truly). And this truth is that it is difficult for a rich person to enter heaven. Using a colloquial expression of the day, Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter heaven.

The reason for this is simple. It’s just what we saw with the rich young ruler. Wealth provides security. With it one can obtain all they need and more on this earth. He trusts his money to take care of any need that may arise. When one is wealthy he sees no reason to depend on God [Revelation 3:17].

While money helps us obtain things here on earth, it is useless in regards to eternity. Riches cannot save anyone from hell or gain anyone access to heaven [1 Timothy 6:17].

The Jews viewed material wealth as a sign of God’s favor and, therefore, proof that someone was going to heaven after they died. This is why Jesus’ words greatly astonished the disciples. “If a rich person wasn’t guaranteed heaven who then can be saved?” they wondered.

The only way for anyone to be saved from the penalty of their sins is to believe God for the forgiveness of those sins [John 3:16; Acts 16:30-31; et. al]. This is only possible because God created a way for sins to be forgiven through the death of His perfect, sinless son, Jesus. It is impossible to be saved by any other means.

God does not condemn riches. Nor is it impossible to be saved if one was rich. Abraham, David, and Joseph of Arimathea were all made wealthy by God (as were others). But they put their trust in God, not their money. But this is the exception, not the norm.

Riches are a distraction. They make us satisfied with life instead of longing for something better. They keep us focused on earth and keep us from turning our attention to God. And one cannot serve God and money [Matthew 6:24]. In this way it is better to have very little on this earth rather than too much; it’s best to simply have our daily needs met [Matthew 6:11].

If one loves money more than he loves God then money has become that person’s god [Exodus 20:3]. Such a person will do as the rich, young ruler did – turn his back on the only one who could save him.

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


I’m A Mess, You’re A Mess

“And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” “Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
(Matthew 19:16-22 ESV)

Today we conclude the story of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus seeking the answer to how he could obtain eternal life. Jesus, as He usually did, did not give this man a direct answer. Instead He conversed with the man in order to correct the man’s mistaken theology.

After getting the man to think about what was really “good” (only God) and also whether he had kept God’s commandments (the man thought he did, but obviously didn’t) Jesus next statement – the one we study today – exposes this man’s true problem. He loved his possessions more than he valued eternity in heaven.

Many people misunderstand Jesus’ challenge to this man. Jesus is not saying that anyone who wants to go to heaven must give up all their worldly possessions and live in poverty. The only person Jesus ever said this to was this young man. And He said it to him because He – being God – knew this man loved his possessions more than he loved God.

Thus the man was breaking the first of the Ten Commandments – God was not his god. His earthly wealth was his God [Exodus 20:3]. Hence this man was a sinner, even though he didn’t realize it.

No one can accept God’s offer of forgiveness until they think they need to be forgiven. And no one will think they need to be forgiven unless they first realize they’re a sinner. That is, they need to first repent – change their way of thinking about themselves. Repentance is the first step towards salvation. That is why the first words of Jesus’ ministry were “Repent!” [Matthew 4:17].

Salvation isn’t for those who keep a set of rules, not even God’s rules. God’s rules were never meant to be kept by anyone because they can’t be [Romans 7:7]. Instead, salvation is for those whose spirit is broken as a result of recognizing their own sinfulness by comparing themselves to the rules.  They’ve come to see the futility of hoping in themselves [Matthew 5:3].

Jesus’ approach with this man is a great example of how to do personal evangelism. If someone asked the average Christian how to go to heaven most Christians would suggest praying the “sinner’s prayer”. But such a prayer is not a silver bullet. It’s not the words that matter but the status of one’s heart. It would be futile for someone who had not been broken by the reality of their own sin to pray such a prayer.

Therefore any personal evangelism that fails to identify someone as a sinner is destined to fail. But sadly many Christians have bought into the cultural lie of “tolerance”. Being tolerant of sin is not loving because it misleads people into thinking they are good when they are not.

Jesus never tolerated sin. Instead He exposed it knowing full well that His listeners would be offended. But as we learned previously, being offended is the first step to realizing truth [Matthew 15:12].

Years ago there was a best seller entitled “I’m OK, You’re OK”. This is a lie. The reality is “I’m a mess, you’re a mess”. And we need to realize we’re a mess before we can enter heaven.

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


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