Keeping It Simple… The Gospel isn’t complicated

The Gospel isn’t complicated. It’s easy to understand. Children can grasp it. Still, the good news that God shares with us in the Bible will be rejected by more people than those who will accept it.

People like to complicate

Left to their own devices, many people will complicate any topic. The Israelites took 10 commandments from God and created 613 rules and regulations. Every aspect of life came under the Law of Moses. The prophets came along and added to the mix. Religion was born.

Now there is nothing wrong with having religion. Certainly not. But religion and the Gospel are two different things. Religion dictates what man must do to be acceptable to God. The Gospel is what God did to make man acceptable to Him.

Those 613 laws were boiled down to one statement–

For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not parish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus offered a clarifying statement when he said,

I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

He told the people that all of the law was still very much in force, but He was the one who would fulfill all of the righteous requirements of the law, so people who put their trust and faith in Him would be forever accepted into God’s family.

When I was a small child, I received a vaccination for polio. My parents didn’t know anything about the years that went into the development of the vaccine, or the science behind it, but they trusted that it would prevent the dreaded disease.

The law is impossible to follow. Every living human being has broken a commandment. The trouble is, Jesus said if you break one, you’ve broken them all. Breaking a commandment is sin, and the Apostle Paul wrote that

the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 3:23)

So what’s the point? The point is simple– the law, the 10 Commandments, points us to Christ. Jesus did not sin. He paid the full price. That is an amazing statement. He fulfilled all of the requirements so that anyone who believes in Him will be guaranteed heaven. We can’t, He can.

It’s simple, straight forward and easy, at least on the surface. Paul said “all have sinned,” which can be a sticking point for some, who do not believe in sin and do not believe they have committed any transgression worthy of an eternal punishment. But he adds,

the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

Those who acknowledge their sinfulness, big or small, and accept the gift of life through faith in Jesus, are welcomed with open arms, no strings attached. Jesus said,

I am the way the truth and the life. Nobody goes to the Father except by me.” ( John 14:6 )

In other words, there is no back door into heaven and no other way to satisfy God. It’s simple enough, yet so many choke on the idea that they have sinned. Call it pride, or maybe they just don’t understand, I have known some that seem incapable of understanding the simplest things of God. They scoff, they mock and completely dismiss the entire message of the Bible.

The Gospel offers salvation by grace and faith

There are many religions, but only one offers salvation by grace through faith. Christianity stands alone, completely alone. Judaism is the closest, and many Jewish people have accepted Jeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah, much to the chagrin of the Jewish leadership. It was the same during the time of Christ.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe in the simple things. If you make up a religion and make it complicated, you just may find some followers. But God and the Gospel offer you a simple, straight forward invitation. Believe in My Son. Jesus gave Himself so you could live. He paid your debt in full… Simple.

The Bible Shows What and Why

The Bible Shows What and Why: There’s a lot of information in the Bible, stories about people, places and events. This amazing story unfolds throughout 66 books, written by 40 some authors over a 1400 year period.

Somehow, amazingly, it all holds together. There’s a lot to take in. There’s some history, a little science, and great deal of wisdom. Information is useful, but it isn’t everything. The Bible tells us what happened.

However, it’s not like reading a textbook. Textbooks are written to disseminate information on which you will be tested. The Bible is a living document, as relevant today as it was when it was written. It’s about life.

Jesus rose from the dead!

While I appreciate all of the stories, that’s not the reason why I am a follower of Jesus. I am a believer because Jesus rose from the dead. All of what happened is meaningless without what happened on the third day.

There are lots of ways to look at what you are reading in the Bible. There is, of course, the literal meaning of the words, but there’s more to consider. There’s the intent of the author to illustrate an important point, so you ask yourself “what does this mean?” Then there’s the allegory, the story behind the story, where we get the full meaning of the passage.

The Bible Shows What and Why

The Bible is a living document. It speaks to our immediate and individual needs. It searches our inner being and roots out what is false. The author of Hebrews talks of a double-edged sword.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

The Bible gives us HOPE!

The double-edged sword cuts and penetrates easier than a single-edge sword. Nothing can be hidden from God. He sees us. He speaks to us through His word. Our troubles of today were known to God long before He put the earth on its axis.

The sword of God exposes our actions, judges our thoughts and feelings, and activates our conscience. At the same time, the Word of God is soothing and encouraging. It gives is hope.

Moreover, the Bible is alive because Christ is alive. He has always been there and always will be there.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5)

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Through God all things are made

Through Him all things were made and, of course, that includes scripture. It was meant to be active and impact. It’s power resonates from the risen Messiah.

Jesus promises us eternal life. His word is also eternal. That is why the Bible is so powerful. What other book as been copied so often? What other book sells the most copies year after year? Nothing comes close.

When you pick up the Bible and begin to read, first take a moment to clear your head and ask God to show you what He has in mind for you. You’ll be surprised what happens if you stay with it.

What does God look like?

What does God look like?: Many people refuse to believe in anything that they can’t see, hear, or touch, so trying to describe what God looks like is, even for the ardent believer, impossible. No one has ever seen God.

First and foremost, God is spirit. The Bible reveals His nature and character. Having said that, God did send His son Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, to go earth in human form. So to look upon Jesus would have been to look into the face of God.

Few who have ever lived have seen God and lived to tell about it. Even Moses, who knelt before the burning bush, did not see God’s face, only the burning bush. God said to Moses:

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3-14)

We are created in God’s image

The Bible tells us that we are created in God’s image. That suggests that God has human form, but it isn’t that simple. There is one God, in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, gives us a little understanding. He was made human and walked with us, experiencing the human condition, every emotion, the common cold, and every temptation.

Impossible to fully describe God

To describe God in human terms is like trying to measure the universe using a ruler. There are glimpses of His appearance in the Bible. For starters, He is described in many ways. They describe Him as holy and beautiful.

The Bible tells of people who describe God’s appearance as a brilliant light and a consuming fire. His throne is likewise a brilliant light. There is no darkness, only purity and light. The fire describes God’s burning passion. His fiery desire for justice. God’s throne is mentioned, with a rainbow over it, a symbol of his mercy and grace.

We cannot comprehend Him

Perhaps it is just as well we don’t get to see God’s face. The magnificence of God is beyond human comprehension. It is only when we are invited to to His kingdom at the end of time that we will be able to look upon Him. Because, by then, all sin and all evil will have been removed.

As for seeing and then believing, it goes against the main point of the relationship—faith. I have belief in God, through faith. I don’t pretend to know much beyond that fact.

Faith is what need

Had God decided to show Himself in a way that humans could comprehend, where would faith come in? They looked upon Jesus, God with us, but sill did not believe Him. You see the problem.

Lies Don’t Become Truth

Jesus is God
Jesus is God

Lies Don’t Become Truth: My friend Deb discovered a hand-written note from her mother. It was nestled in a stack of old papers, left unread for years. She picked it up, read it, and decided to share it with our Bible study group.

It dovetailed nicely into an ongoing discussion we have had about the first chapter of the Gospel of John.

A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good just because it is accepted by a majority.

What is truth?

A lie doesn’t become truth, but what is truth? Maybe what is true for you isn’t true for me. If I tell a lie, and believe the lie, does it become truth?

Besides, who’s to say what is true and what is not? A modern day example of this is the 2020 presidential election. Did the Democrats steal the election? The GOP lost 61 of 61 court cases contesting the election process, but the “Stop the Steal” continued regardless.

What is true? That depends on two things for the average guy on the street. One– do I want it to be true? And two—is it possible to be true. As for evidence, who cares?

Was Jesus who He said He was or was He lying?

That was the major issue starring Jesus in the face during His ministry. Was He who He said He was? For some, no amount of evidence could sway them. For others, the truth came crashing through the walls of lies and deceit.

The Apostle John began his Gospel with the truth of Jesus and continued that narrative throughout. In His epistle, he points to he witness of the truth.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth . John testifies concerning him.

He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'”

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (John 1:14-18)

Today truth is seen as relative

In today’s world, truth is relative. We all get to define what truth is according to our own, individual biases, regardless of any evidence to support the claim.

The 2020 presidential election was “rigged” according to many Republicans. They lost every court case contesting the results. Fox News even lost an $800 million lawsuit because they perpetuated a lie, even though they knew the truth.

Three lawyers plead guilty to lying about it in the Georgia election case. Still the “big lie” persists and is truth for those who will not accept the reality of the situation.

The integrity of our institutions are being undermined, and people look for information and truth. They do not trust the government. In the time of Jesus, people not only did not trust the Romans

If the majority of people believe something, doesn’t that make it true? Is there no objective standard for determining truth?

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6-7). This statement is an example of absolute truth, which is, simply defined, that which is true in all times in all places. It does not change.

The Torah and the Bible

The Torah and the Bible: The easiest way to understand the difference between the Torah and the Bible is to make one simple distinction. The Torah is the first five books of the bible, written by Moses. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

These scrolls served as the entirety of the Holy Scripture, but then came the writings and the prophets of the Hebrew bible, which Christians call the Old Testament.

God creates the universe

In Genesis, Moses wrote an account of how the universe was created and how man came to be. It is the beginning account of man’s relationship to God. Exodus chronicles the miracles of how God freed the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.

The Ten Commandments are delivered, but man disobeys God and wandered the wilderness for an additional 40 years as a result. While in the dessert, Moses penned the next three books, detailing what would be come Judaism.

Torah lays foundation for redemption

Interestingly, the Torah clearly outlines the importance of man having faith in God, not in himself. It lays the foundation of how man would later be redeemed. Without mentioning Jesus, it presents the Gospel of Jesus’ birth and resurrection.

For example, in Exodus, Moses forms a snake out of bronze and places it on a long pole. All the people had to do was look at the snake and then would be healed. Some didn’t believe and died of their snake bites.

Others did believe and lived. All people need do for eternal life is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The snake story was foreshadowing of Jesus on the cross.

Abraham called to sacrifice his son

Earlier, in Genesis, Abraham is commanded to sacrifice his son Issac. He is obedient, but just as he was ready to plunge the knife into his son’s body. God provided a sacrifice in the form of a ram caught in a thicket to replace Issac’s death. God would not save His own Son from dying on the cross, but would resurrect Him three days later.

Prophets explain who Jesus is

In the writings and prophets, there is a reliable history of events, but more importantly, an explanation of how the Messiah would come. The prophets not only describe the coining of the Messiah, but also tell of the end of times.

For example, the book of Daniel ties in directly with the accounts written by the Apostle John in the book of Revelation, with astonishingly accurate detail.

Torah and the Bible

From the Torah to Revelation, the Bible is one contiguous story. Every major event in the ministry of Jesus took place on a location referenced from the Hebrew Bible. It was the canvas for the life of Christ. But much of what we all really need to know and embrace, is in the Torah, those first five books are the basis for everything.

Be Careful What You Ask For

Be careful what you ask for: A young man approached Jesus and asked Him a question people have been asking ever since–”What must I do to get eternal life?”

We have accounts of that conversation in Matthew, Mark and Luke. The young man used the term “eternal life,” which means entry into the Kingdom of God, or heaven. It’s a common question, but the answer can be challenging. The question also shows where the young man’s heart was.

“What must I do…” Under the law, that is a very legitimate question and clearly Jesus gave a simple, direct answer. He pointed to the Ten Commandments and told him not to murder, steal, give false testimony and to honor his parents.

It was an honest answer, but not one the young man could fully understand. The young man told Jesus he had done so all his life. Jesus knew that none of us are capable of keeping the Ten Commandments.

The Pharisees (Jewish Priests) were always talking about keeping the law and paraded around like they were the righteous standard of the people. They couldn’t keep the commandments either. But they wanted the people to follow the law to the letter so they could punish them when they didn’t.

Be careful what you ask for: A disappointing answer

Jesus gave him a disappointing answer. Jesus answered,

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Matthew 19: 21)

Young man not inclined to believe Jesus

The young man was disappointed because he was not inclined to believe the message that Jesus offered. He could not believe, or he would not believe. Rather than acting on faith, he just wanted to know what to do.

There was no belief. Rather than believe, people will often just want to know what to do. Give money? Act like they believe? Man has always wanted to know what he must do to be acceptable to God. God has always maintained that man is acceptable to God because of what God did through Jesus. There is a huge distinction there.

You must never sin to enter heaven without faith in Jesus. That’s why you should be careful what you ask for.

Jesus has compassion for us

Jesus replied with compassion.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

The young man’s decision to rely on his own wealth rather than believe in Jesus showed that he was not wise. He was disappointed. Had he followed Jesus, or even just accepted the message of salvation, he would have received what he was asking for.

Interestingly, even though he told Jesus that he had kept all the commandments, he still felt he was lacking. Rather than recognizing that he was a helpless sinner in need of a savior… Faith in Jesus, he was looking for a way to get more perfect. God does not approve of this kind of arrogance.

Then Jesus helped His disciples to understand

Jesus then turned to his disciples, who were wondering what had just happened:

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits 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 fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. (Matthew 21:25-30)

God’s plan has not changed over the years. Man is saved by the grace of God, through faith. No amount of wealth or social prominence is going to change that. Be careful what you ask for, entry to heaven is based on what you believe not what you do.

Man is helpless without God

Man is helpless without God: Many people love to go to auctions. There are so many kinds, from art to animals. They go and make their bids on items, not knowing if they have bid too high or too low. They don’t know if someone with deeper pockets will out bid them and take that prize painting home.

You can argue that people with unlimited cash can win the day, but that’s a small number. When a person does good works to earn favor with God, it is like that auction, only the sale will never be made because no amount of money will secure the transaction.

Man is helpless without God

God’s plan from the very beginning was to have man come to the understanding that, apart from God, man is helpless. If it were otherwise, then man would be in control of his own destiny, owing nothing to the one who created him.

All too many people believe they are the center of things, with no room for God in their lives. But God has always given man signposts, indicators of right and wrong, intended not for discipline or punishment, but for a compassionate desire that man have a good life.

Ten Commandments a guide for us

God gave the law to Moses. The Ten Commandments were written to guide man into a right relationship with God. They are the basis of all western law and to this day serve as a guide for justice.

But, if you read each one and carefully examine the truth of it, you will discover that you’ve probably broken every one of them by thought, word or deed. They are impossible to follow.

You can’t buy your way to heaven, nor can you work your way to heaven, because God has already done all of the work, and He doesn’t need your money nor your works. He imparts righteousness by faith.

How much faith? Well, just to simple confession that we are sinners and we recognize Jesus as Lord and savior is an act of faith God can work with. We are helpless to save ourselves. It is only the death, burial and resurrection of Christ that ensures our salvation. Believe in these things not your own way.

For it , not your own way. is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Salvation is not subjectiveYou either believe in Jesus or you don’t!

This is a definitive statement made by the Apostle Paul. Salvation is not subjective. Do you believe Christ died on the cross to pay for your sins, and that He was resurrected on the third day? Yes or no.

Salvation by grace is the major dividing point between Christianity and all other faiths. Religion is man’s attempt to make himself acceptable to God.

Salvation by God’s grace is what God did to make us acceptable. All we need do is ask for grace from God through Jesus and He gives us grace.

It’s free. We can’t buy it or work for it. It can’t be earned. No amount of good deeds will be sufficient.

Belief in Jesus, man is helpless without God

Jesus taught this to his disciples and followers. He was specific about the important points.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)

So, how does God, the Holy and perfect creator, view our works in comparison to His own? Ours do not stand up. There is no substitute or comparison to heavenly perfection.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, (Isaiah 64:6)

Faith has always been the key factor

The Apostle Paul drew the comparison between the Old and New Testament understanding s of salvation. But understand that faith has always been the key factor.

Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will. But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:5-12)

Always about faith

God’s plan of salvation by faith did not change over the centuries. Long before He sent His Son, salvation or justification by faith was always in force. It was never about what we did. It was always, is and shall always be about what He does.

Would Jesus be accepted today?

Would Jesus be accepted today?: We are all on the shoulders of a homeless man. We look up to power in America, wealth and celebrity. Sports stars are like gods. Movie stars are envied. Rock stars sell out stadiums, with ticket prices so high only the rich may attend.

It’s an upside-down world. That which really matters, matters not. If Jesus came to us today for the first time, He would be ignored, reviled and dismissed like last week’s trash. A poor, homeless man would hardly be given a moment’s notice.

We want everything

I want to be rich, I want to be famous, I want it all. The focus on self is ever-growing in our culture. Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do. Everything is permissible if it is what I want. Even that which is against my best interest is permissible because I say so.

People want to be the center of their universe. Think of a “fresh out of college” person striving to get ahead in the corporate world. Perhaps they claim credit for for another person’s work, or walk all over coworkers just to get noticed.

Jesus had a different approach

Jesus had the opposite approach. He had no professional ambitions. Jesus came to do His Father’s will, and so became a servant. He had no money, no home, no job, but he changed the world. He was loving and kind. Ask yourself, would Jesus be accepted today?

Jesus explained this twice in the Gospels, first in Matthew and then again in Mark. There are, of course, references to servant-hood elsewhere in the Bible.

Jesus called them together and said:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many .” (Matthew 20:25-28)

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many .” (Mark 10:45)

Would Jesus be accepted today?

Would a kind, giving person be accepted in the corporate world today, or in politics? Those kind of people, in the eyes of those who are jockeying for position, are weak and lack leadership skills.

But what is leadership? Is it lording over people and giving orders. Or is it nurturing, encouraging and loving others?

Jesus taught 12 men how to share the good news. He then gave His life on the cross to pay the sin debt for every person past, present and future. Jesus allowed them to beat Him, drag Him through the streets of Jerusalem and nail Him on tree. Hardly the image of a corporate CEO.

Understanding our meek shepherd

Even the evangelical church sometimes fails to see the value of a meek shepherd. The Gospel gets corrupted by those who substitute the Word of God for political ideology. They spout party line rhetoric and if you are not of their political group, you can’t be Christian. They serve themselves.

Pride is the root of all sin. The love of things other than God lead to creating a chasm between man and God. It is pride that drives the need to succeed. Pride needs to be paid. It needs to be recognized for accomplishments. Pride does not serve.

Would we value Jesus if He came today?

Would Jesus stand out today. Even with social media, world-wide instantaneous communication and 24-hour news. The idea that a homeless, unemployed itinerant would probably be swept away by the ambition of the world.

We would ask: Why should we listen to him? Man’s heart is hard. Even when Jesus performed miracles, they still didn’t believe. Even if those miracles were on television and the internet, there would always be those who, because of pride, reject the message. Why listen to a homeless man?

Jesus Takes On The Pharisees

Jesus Takes On The Pharisees: Seeing is believing. Well, not necessarily. We live in a world of misinformation, propaganda and truth is considered relative or meaningless. We live in a divided society, with a political chasm that is greater than anything we have ever seen.

It’s a zero sum game. One side has to win, at any cost.

I share this only because the truth often gets lost in the shuffle. A person can do a good job, yet be considered a complete failure. The common good is replaced by self-interest. But take heart, we’ve been dealing with this for a long time. Jesus had His fill of it 2000 years ago.

Most Pharisees despised Jesus

When Jesus was becoming well-known, and reports of His miracles circulated, the Pharisees and the Jewish ruling elite became increasingly annoyed. The Pharisees became very tired of hearing or even seeing these events take place.

The Jewish law prohibited any work on the Sabbath, but Jesus routinely healed people on those days, sometimes in full view of the Pharisees. It was quite intentional. That was a no no in Jewish culture.

When Jesus revealed His true identity as the Messiah, He was quickly rebuked and rejected by the Pharisees. One of the major points the Pharisees made was that Jesus was from Nazareth and that no prophet could come from that town.

In truth, Jesus was from Bethlehem, the place where David was born and the place from which the Messiah would come. Jesus just happened to live in Nazareth, where He grew up. The Pharisees used this lie to discredit Jesus.

Pharisees did not love God

The Pharisees were an arrogant group, lording over people, holding themselves in very high esteem. But it was all for show and Jesus went to specific lengths to point that out in no uncertain terms.

Jesus got right to the point asserting that the Pharisees taught ABOUT God, but did not love God. The law was their weapon of choice to keep people in line. They preyed on widows, taking their assets while pretending to be devoted men of God.

They talked about God, but did not share the love of God or teach about the true nature and character of God. In doing so, they guided people away from the truth in favor of a meaningless religion.

Jesus took on the Pharisees directly

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says “Woe to you” seven times in direct conflict with the Pharisees. He pulls no punches and it is a side of the Messiah that people seldom talk about. His remarks to the Pharisees are fueled by righteous indignation. He is angry, yet he speaks the truth without losing His temper or committing sin. Jesus does not lie or over state. He tells them the truth.

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’

19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’

31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers

Luke added his own list of “woes”

42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.

44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it.”

45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”

46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’

50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” Matt 23:13-32

Very little has changed

Consider our own present day attitudes about life and truth. Rarely does a politician speak truth to power, especially if he/she is in the majority party. With them it is party before everything else.

With the Pharisees it was power and status before the simplest needs of everyday people. It’s sad, but it’s true. Nothing much changes.

Get A Hold Of Yourself!

Get a hold of yourself: Get a grip. Cool your jets. Stay calm. When we think about self-control it is most often about our efforts to hold back anger, or resist temptation.

But is self control a gift or an informed decision? Are we really able to control our reactions, or do we need help? We’d like to think that we are the ones in control, but if you take a look around and are completely honest about it, we are anything but in control.

People do not necessarily look to God for guidance, relying on their own strength. But the Bible is filled with wisdom and God’s Holy Spirit is ready, willing and able to help us do what we are incapable of doing alone.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. With the Holy Spirit inside of us, we are able to possess self-control and demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit. As a result, we can live in a way that is honorable to God (2 Timothy 1:7)

God is our self control

These two verses suggest that God is our self-control, and would put our efforts in the back seat. On the one hand, we are expected to have self-control, but on the other, we are incapable of it. We want to go to heaven when we die, but we cannot earn out way there. It’s a gift. Self-control is a gift.

Gifts of the Spirit are freely given, as in Galatians 5, but in order to take advantage of their obvious benefits we need to exercise them. We are encouraged to put them into motion by reaching out to others to share the love of God. Moreover, God knows that our self-control will be put to the test.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Get A Hold Of Yourself: Self control is a journey

Peter reinforces that by adding “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Peter also warns us to be aware of the temptations and attacks by the enemy.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter: 8-9)

Self-control is more than just resisting. We need to acknowledge that we are in this world and subject to the forces of this world.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:16)

God will guide us

Our self-control is so very limited, but God can guide us through all situations. We can build ourselves up by reading His word and allowing Him to come into our hearts. We are in the fight, but it really isn’t our fight to win, it’s God’s fight to win. Just stay out of the way. Is that self-control? No, it’s God control.

Mary, Mother of Jesus

Mary, Mother of Jesus: The story is so familiar. The “Hail Mary” prayer, which is recited by Catholics, talks of Mary being the mother of God. This is logical, mainly because she carried Him for nine months and gave birth. God we know was the father, because clearly Luke’s gospel points that out. However, she bore Him and raised Him, but the pregnancy was all God’s doing.

Luke’s gospel shows the bloodline between King David and Mary and to be sure it was not a perfect Jewish bloodline, as Ruth was not a Jew but a Moabite, a gentile. Matthew documents the bloodline between King David and Joseph, but we know Joseph was not the father biological father of Jesus. God was.

Jesus is our intercessor

Through the centuries, some have deified Mary, raising her to a level far above that which the Bible explains. People pray to Mary as an intercessor, but in truth, Jesus is our intercessor, the only one between us and God the Father.

Give her all credit for being obedient to God, being a great mom, but she and Joseph raised a family and she had other children to consider. Like all other Biblical characters, other than Jesus, Mary was flawed. She had doubts and fears, plus a deep concern for the well being of her son. Mary was an ordinary person placed in an extraordinary position.

She knew she was blessed, as indicated by her song in Luke 1. But was she the mother of God, or a surrogate?

God created man by taking dust from the ground and breathing life into it. The dust became flesh.

The Gospel of John provides the first clue of Jesus’ complete parentage. John points out that the WORD became flesh. In the case of Christ, the dust did not become flesh.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Christ was not formed from the dust of the earth

Christ, God with us, fully man and fully God, was not formed from the dust of the earth. If it were possible for flesh made from dust could save the world, then there is no reason why a Messiah would be necessary.

Man brought sin into the world, but he could not remove it. Only God can do that. The one who died on the cross was completely of God. He had no sin. He had no corruption of the body, as He rose on the third day. Mary’s flesh would return to dust because of the fallen world. Christ was beyond that.

Jesus had to be perfect

The Messiah had to be perfect. Like the sacrifices offered in the Old Testament, the Lamb of God had to be spotless and without blemish. Mary was given the honor of carrying Christ and she sang out:

My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced on God my savior.” (Luke 1:46-47)

The DNA of Christ did not come from Mary. Otherwise he would have had blemish and would have lacked the Godly credentials to be the savior of mankind. Mary, like all of us, was not sinless and required a savior. Had she been a part of his DNA or contributed to her pregnancy, the blood of Christ would not be precious. He would have been flawed.

Jesus was not of this world

Jesus was not of this world, as he said many times. He was from heaven, from above. Nor was he the son of David, as many wanted to believe. The pharisees pressed this matter, thinking that the Messiah would be of that lineage, but Jesus told them:

If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?”

And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore, (Matthew 22: 43). When he talked of His world, he said He was going about His father’s business, not David’s.

Jesus fully man and fully God

Jesus was fully man and fully God, but not from Mary. He did not inherit Mary’s DNA and thus would have been a demigod. The WORD became flesh. Moreover, Jesus stopped people from calling Mary his mother:

Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew12:47-50)

Jesus never addressed Mary as His mother

Jesus never addressed Mary as “mother.” When Jesus was on the cross, Mary and others, including the Apostle John, were there. He said to her:

“Woman behold your son” (John 19:26)

When Mary asked Jesus to help with the wine at the wedding at Cana, He replied:

Dear woman, why do you involve me. My time has not yet come.” (John 3:4)

Curious.

Before time, Jesus had flesh and existed before His birth as a baby. It was Jesus who wrestled with Jacob. He met with Abraham. There are so many examples of the pre-incarnent Christ. No man had, or has ever seen the face of God. But they saw the face of the Messiah.

Mary did not give Jesus His DNA

Mary did not contribute to the DNA of Jesus. The WORD became flesh. He was in the world but not a part of the world and had no blood relatives.

Mary was not the “mother of God,” nor was she, in the beliefs of so many, a perpetual virgin. She was obedient to God, did as He commanded, and yes, she is blessed among women. She just wasn’t the mother of Jesus, but a surrogate.