Who Are You Following?

Who Are You Following?

Daily Reading: (Luke 6:39):

He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?”

Following someone today doesn’t mean the same thing it did back some 2,000 years ago. With a click of a button, we follow lots of people on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok etc… Who you followed in Jesus’ day was way more involved. “In the first-century Jewish world, being a disciple/ follower was all about one key word:imitation.When a disciple followed a rabbi, the goal wasn’t merely to master the rabbi’s teachings, but also to imitate the way he lived: how he prayed, studied, taught, served the poor and lived out his relationship with God day to day. Following a rabbi meant living with the rabbi, sharing meals with him, praying with him, studying with him and taking part in the rabbi’s daily life. A rabbi’s life was meant to be a living example of someone who was shaped by God’s word. Disciples, therefore, studied not just the text of Scripture but also the “text” of the rabbi’s life.”[1]

This is why Jesus didn’t simply ask His disciples to listen to His preaching in the synagogues. He said “Come and follow me”.

In today’s text Jesus warns about how those we follow can have a dramatic impact on the path we are led down. Let’s put up our text see what I mean and then we will work back from it.

He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit (Luke 6:39)?

One of my favorite stories I like to share happened in the jungle in Grenada as I went on a Hash House Harrier trek. When we started our adventure of trying to find our way through the jungle to the finish line, a group of people decided to follow me as their guide to the end. To make a long story short, we almost fell into a pit. The idea that many people who were native to the island, would follow me to lead them out of the jungle was absolutely crazy. Why are you following me? God is so good, He gave me wisdom and somehow I found the paper trail that was hidden that led us to the right path. If you know me, you know that was a miracle. The beauty was in the simplicity that I knew my own limitations and it worked out because people followed my lead as I prayed and followed God’s lead. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

The pit that Jesus is talking about is not a literal cliff or pit but a destructive path that leads to ultimately the pit of hell. Jesus is talking about the spiritually blind leading others who are spiritually blind. They don’t know the path to life so they can only lead others down the wrong path (Luke 6:39).

The way to righteousness lies in finding not other people’s sins, but our own. We will miss the path to life, Jesus Christ if we never come to the end of ourselves and see our own depravity. And when we begin to follow Jesus, we will imitate His life as ours. We do not judge. We do not condemn. We instead forgive and we give. This is walking with spiritual sight toward your fellow man. You can see the needs of others and help guide them to the path of life. You do this and you’ll experience the One who has given you everything good that you have, pour so much blessing into your life it will overflow. So much you won’t be able to contain it because the real overflowing blessing is found when we will bless others with Christ (Luke 6:38).

“The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40). The question becomes who do you want to be like? If you want to be the best cake designer in the world it would help to have Duff Goldman as your teacher. Spent time with Duff. If you want to improve your golf game, you might want to hang around a PGA Pro. But if you want to live your life supernaturally where you don’t judge others, you forgive and you give, spend time with Jesus Christ.

God is strengthening you, perfect, whole, complete and as you ought to be. His desire is that we will be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18). We imitate or reflect Jesus as we do not judge, as we do not bring condemnation unto others, and we instead forgive and we give and we love. The incredible thing is as we follow Jesus and live as He lived, it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. So, we can now be givers. Blessed to be a blessing. When we give out of good motive to advance God’s Kingdom, we will receive overflowing blessings in return.


[1] Focusequip.org

I’m Not a Punching Bag

I’m Not a Punching Bag

Daily Reading: (Luke 6:29a):

“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.”

As we go to Luke 6:17 we learn who Jesus is talking to when He tells the crowd to turn the other cheek. “He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon.” People who were from Tyre and Sidon were Phoenician. Culturally, the Phoenicians were Canaanites and spoke a variation of the Canaanite language and worshipped variations of the same gods as the Canaanite people in Israel. The most commonly worshipped god was the fertility god referred to as “Baal”. The Romans took the ruined city as a colony in 64 BCE, when Pompey annexed the whole of Phoenicia to the Roman Empire. Tyre was re-built under the Romans. This will be key to know as we continue in the text.

The motive of the people of the large crowd is recording in the next verse, verse eighteen: “who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases.”

Jesus makes this profound statement about turning the other cheek to the people of Judea, Jerusalem, and the Roman colony of Tyre and Sidon that has Phoenician heritage. Now if we skip down between verse twenty-six and twenty-seven there is a sub-header inserted that says, “Love for enemies.”This is where we are led to the answer as to why did Jesus say something that sounded so outlandish in Luke 6:29. To come to our answer let’s consider who were the enemies of the audience that were gathered together? Each other. Jews and Phoenicians/Canaanites or Romans take your pick. But here they are gathered together to hear Jesus and receive physical salvation. “Love your enemies” goes beyond ethnic divide here because what Jesus is talking about is that if you are a Jew and you follow Jesus, you won’t just receive this harsh treatment from the Romans you will also receive some of it from a fellow Jew.

“If someone slaps your cheek” does not refer to physical injury, but to insults and indignity. In Jewish culture, the greatest insult, the most demeaning action possible, was a slap on the cheek. It was a deliberate gesture of disrespect. This was the way Jewish synagogue leaders put people out of synagogue – especially Jews who had converted to Christianity. So the slap on the cheek refers to receiving a deep insult. Turning the other cheek means that when you are severely insulted, you don’t trade insults.

Jesus gave us this example in 1 Peter 2:23: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate.” That’s why Peter would say in 1 Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” Turn the other check simple means that when you are insulted, turn the other cheek or don’t repay evil with evil, insult with insult.

Love Your Enemies

Love Your Enemies

Daily Reading: (Matthew 5:44):

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

In the minds of the original audience there would have been no problem to identify an enemy. They probably turned their heads and glanced off in the distance and set their gaze upon some Roman soldiers. Their homelands had been invaded by the Romans. The Romans still allowed worship, they just charged a Jewish tax to do so. So, imagine you just heard Jesus’ words. “Pray for your enemies,” and the next day you are going to the Temple to worship, but before you can worship you have to pay tax to the Romans to do so. Now, go ahead and pray for those people who just taxed you to pray.

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:41). Rome had passed a law where a Roman could force any Jew, at any time, to carry their belongings a mile down the road. We see an example of this in Jesus crucifixion scene. Roman soldiers pressed Simon of Cyrene into service of carrying Jesus’ cross (Matthew 27:32).

What Jesus said is the opposite of what the multitudes had expected to hear from their Messiah. Our Messiah should bring us freedom by destroying our enemies, not having us love and pray for them. 

Oswald Chambers said, “The Sermon on the Mount is not an ideal, it is a statement of what will happen in me when Jesus Christ has altered my disposition and put in a disposition like His own.Jesus Christ is the only One who can fulfill the Sermon on the Mount.”

It’s a crazy way of living that Christ was describing to them. It was something they really hadn’t thought of before. It was an impossible way to live. When we come to our text, don’t hate your enemies, love your enemies and pray for them. Don’t get even, forgive people, even when they don’t deserve it, even when they don’t ask for it. It is backwards to how we feel and to what we want to do. The Jews didn’t want to live in the first mile of servitude to the Romans, let alone the second.

Prayer for your enemies is one of the deepest forms of love, because it means that you have to really want something good to happen to someone who doesn’t necessarily deserve it. This is unconditional love. The kind of love that Jesus displayed as He hung on the cross:

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

And it’s what Stephen did the first Christian martyr as he was being stoned to death for his faith:

“Falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60)!

I know we aren’t being forced to carry military supplies a mile for a foreign army. So, practically speaking how we live out Matthew 5:41 “willing to go the extra mile” is possible as we spend time with Jesus, allowing His love, grace, and forgiveness to flow from us.

Colossians 3:12-13:“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Christ is our example for all of this. The good news is that Jesus loves us at our worst and His love changes us.

The Sermon on the Mount and the command to love our enemies comes from the great foundation of grace in the life and teaching of Jesus. This is where we get the power to love; that he loved us while we were poor, helpless enemies of God (Romans 5:10), He gave himself for us.

You Can’t Hang on the Law

Daily Reading: (Matthew 22:37-39):

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

What prompted Jesus’ reply? We learn in Matthew 22:34 that “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together to tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

So, to begin with we have to back it up even further and see how Jesus silenced the Sadducees and why that might have embolden the Pharisees to ask Jesus a question as well?

It all starts in Matthew 22:23: “That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.” We are presented with a hypothetical from the Sadducees, in an attempt to try and argue their belief system of why there can be no such thing as the Resurrection.

Because they don’t believe in the Resurrection (Matthew 22:23)they use a hypothetical situation of a woman having seven different husbands to show how messy it might be in the Resurrection, “whose wife will she be?”

It is important to notice that if there was no Resurrection, death would still have victory over us and we would all remain dead as a result of our sins, so what would the point of this argument even be (Matthew 22:23)? We’d all be in our graves.

So, Jesus says not only is the Resurrection real but….

At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).

What you might not know is that not only did the Sadducees not believe in the Resurrection they also didn’t believe in angels (Matthew 22:30).

“But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Did you catch that? God is referred to by both Sadducees and Pharisees as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”. All three of those men are dead, yet God is the “God of the living”, so they must have been resurrected to life (Matthew 22:32).

So now the Pharisees have a question. “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

This question (Matthew 22:35) was founded on the false opinion that there are relative rankings of importance among God’s commandments. All of God’s commands are important, but they all have the common denominator of love. The law of the land was the law of love. But think about this we don’t need all 613 of them for us to be shown up. Have you ever done these two perfectly all the time?

I think maybe the most important part of what Jesus said is actually the last part and that is the part that is often ignored: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The word “hang” (kremannymi) is the same word used for “one hanging upon a cross.”

You can’t hang on the Law. Some people try to. The only one who can hang on the Law must be blameless and pure. His name is Jesus. Jesus sums up the entirety of the law with 2 Commandments that we all went 0 for 2. We failed at following the Law. So, Jesus hung our law failings on Himself so that we might be given His life and truly live. 

This Little Light of Mine

Daily Reading: (John 8:12):

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Something incredible just happened if you will go back and place yourself at the exact location of where Jesus spoke these words. We do as we focus on verses 2-4.

“At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery” (John 8:2-4).

The Court of the Women is the place where Jesus proclaimed that He is the light of the whole world.

The timing of this proclamation was during the Feast of Tabernacles. Which meant there was a brilliant menorah/candelabra that was lit. The candelabra provided light throughout the entirety of the Court. There was a great ceremony called the “Illumination of the Temple,” which involved the ritual lighting of four golden oil-fed lamps in the Court of Women. These lamps were huge menorahs/candelabras (seventy-five feet high). The reason they would light the candelabra was to remind God’s people of the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night that guided His people in the wilderness.

Here in one of the three most holy festivals Jesus pronounces that He is God. As God was with His people in the Exodus, Jesus is the Light of the World, tabernacling among His people now.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people,”the Greek word for “again” is (autos) and it means the same. So, if Jesus is speaking to the same people, they must have witnessed and heard something before the “I am the Light of the World” statement. In verse 3 a woman who was caught in adultery was brought before Jesus with the Pharisees (religious leaders) wanting to have her executed by stoning her to death. Have you ever wondered where is the guy who was involved in the same act?

When Jesus walked the earth, gender inequality was so entrenched in Jewish society that an adulteress could be stoned without trial and men could divorce their wives for virtually any reason. Some of the religious leaders taught that women were ignorant and that there was no point teaching them because they had weak minds. Then along came Jesus.

The Law states this woman could be killed for her adulterous actions. What does Jesus do? Jesus says: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).If you want to bring her sins in front of everyone you religious leaders, how about we take a second and talk about yours first. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you” (John 8:10)?

What is so beautiful about this is the light of the world clearly is not there to expose our sins because that is not what Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery. Jesus is the Light that brings the lost out of darkness. Jesus’ light exposes our perfection in Him and unveils the truth that our sins have been completely removed.

This tells us that we don’t have to be fearful when we come into God’s presence. He is not there waiting to punish us for our mistakes and failures. His light is not for exposing our sins and shame, or for condemning us. No, Jesus’ glorious light (John 8:12) shows us how perfectly His blood has washed away our sins (John 8:10/1 John 1:7)! That is why Jesus could tell the woman that He did not condemn her—because He would be condemned for her at the cross.

“Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12b).

If you have lived long enough you probably have been a part of a remodeling project of some kind. What is amazing to me is the minute you redo one part of your house everything else stands out that needs to be redone. What has become beautiful has the opportunity to impact what is around it. What is beautiful can lead to what is near being redone and completely changed. Jesus, the light of the world, lifts us up and gives us a confident expectation of good even in our darkest hour. As we let our light shine before others, they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.

Jesus said, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” “Follows Me” it really isn’t the best translation from the Greek to English. “Follows” means whoever becomes my disciple. Because it isn’t that when we mess up or we make a mistake that God leaves us in the dark. Whoever is a disciple of Jesus will not pass one’s life in darkness or you won’t live your life having a want of light but will have the light always. It means as a believer in Jesus Christ you possess the Light of Life. In the darkness of the world, our lives are really able to contrast that darkness and bring forth the Light of the World. It gives those who are walking round in darkness an introduction to the Light of the World, and if they will receive the Light (Jesus Christ) they will never be in the dark anymore.

As a Man Thinks…

Daily Reading: (Proverbs 23:7): “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.”   

What you think has a great bearing on what you do. However, Proverbs 23:7 is not saying that you are what you think.

Think positive thoughts, make positive confessions and you’ll become a positive person. Whatever your focus on the inside is, will become the reality on the outside. Thoughts shape destinies. Of course, there’s truth to all of those sayings, however, this is not what Solomon had in mind when he wrote Proverbs 23:7. Solomon is referring to a specific kind of person in verse seven. But who? The answer is right there in the passage.

Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; for as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” but his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten, and waste your compliments (Proverbs 23:6-8).

Clearly, this passage has nothing to do with positive thinking. This text gives a straightforward warning to keep your guard up around selfish people.

Now that we cleared that up, now I want to talk about the power of our thoughts. Our spirits are made new the moment we are born again, but from then on our minds have to play catch-up. They have to be renewed. We need to take on new attitudes, new ways of thinking. We need to cultivate the habit of saying yes and amen to the promises of God. We need to call things that are not as though they are. Because what we believe can be contrary to who we are or who Christ made us to be.

Your erroneous thinking does not change your identity of who you have become. For some reason, there is the tendency to think of saints as people who became saints, sainthood based upon what they have done in their lives. It’s not true. You don’t become a saint by what you do but by what has been done for you and what you received (2 Corinthians 5:21). Saints (holy people) are not a special group of people but are all believers. The qualification to be God’s holy people (saints) is that a person be in Christ (Ephesians 1:1).

The devil works hard to win the battle in our minds. He doesn’t want the church to walk in Christ’s victory. He wants you to believe the lie that you are defeated so that you don’t tap into the divine power you have to demolish strongholds he has set up (2 Corinthians 10:4).

Be encouraged to know that you don’t have to be afraid of the battles in your mind. Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Right believing is based on God’s Word and it is the key that unlocks the treasures of God in your life. Right believing gives you access to the fullness of His love, grace, and many blessings. The hindrance to your victory is found in your wrong beliefs. The battle has to do with your beliefs (John 8:32).

The enemy knows that if he can control your thought life, he can manipulate your emotions and feelings. If you entertain thoughts of guilt, failure, and defeat, you will begin to feel lousy about yourself, physically weak, and even depressed. Our emotions are the flags that indicate to us if our thoughts are negative or positive. Your emotions follow quickly after your thoughts. If your thoughts are negative, you will naturally produce negative emotions. If your thoughts are positive in Christ, you will produce positive emotions. That is why there is a battle for your mind. The devil wants to keep your thoughts negative so that he can keep you defeated. Through the power of right believing, you will win the battle for your mind.

Only By My Spirit

Daily Reading: (Zechariah 4:6-7):So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.“What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’”

Zechariah Chapter 4 says:

Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep (Zechariah 4:1).

I have woken up a little more than 14,292 times and I have not once been woken up by an angel before. Have you ever been woken up by an angel that spoke to you?  Probably not because this was the way God would speak to His people in the Old Covenant. In the past God would speak through prophets but the final word over our lives today is Jesus. God speaks to us primarily through His Word, and this is how we are to speak (grace) over our lives. Hebrews 1:2 tells us: “But in these last days” he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” Prophets still exist, we find this in Acts 2 and Ephesians 4 and if anyone claims to be a prophet or have a word from the Lord whatever they say will not be new, as in adding to Scripture. A word from the Lord through a modern-day prophet will be nothing in addition to what God has already spoken. A prophecy will always agree with scripture or what the Lord has previously spoken.

He asked me, “What do you see? ”I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left” (Zechariah 4:2-3).

Do you know what these are? That’s what the angel asked the prophet.

  • A gold lampstand, with a bowl at the top
  • Seven lamps on it with seven channels to the lamps.
  • 2 Olive trees one on the right and the other on the left. 

The golden candlestick is the Word of God, it is the Light of the World and it represents Jesus. 

The bowl on top held the oil to light the lamp. The fullness of grace in Christ, which is as “a fountain”, as the Word to supply His church and His people; We are the light of the world because Christ lives and flows in us Matthew 5:14.

The 7 lamps represent the seven churches written about in Revelation 2 and 3. The 7 channels or pipes to the 7 lamps lets the oil into the lamps. These are the various gifts given by the Holy Spirit to the members of the Body of Christ.Each lamp is supplied perfectly. The lamps were fueled by pure, specially prepared olive oil that came from the trees and when you know what the trees represent than you will see how this is the gifts the Holy Spirit has given the members of the church flowing into the seven lamps. This gives us a visual of limitless oil and a constant supply.

If you read the entire text, Zechariah only struggles with one symbol, and he asks about it over and over again. This one symbol would have made no sense to him. All he knew is God’s people at that time are the Israelites. He knew nothing about God’s plan to include the Gentiles into His kingdom. So, let’s observe his bewilderment.

Then I asked the angel, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” Again I asked him, “What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?” He replied, “Do you not know what these are?” “No, my lord,” I said. So he said, “These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth” (Zechariah 4:11-14).

The “two olive trees” are the natural branch (physical Israel), and the grafted in branch (spiritual Israel), the church. These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth” (Zechariah 4:14). Zechariah was looking ahead to the day we live in.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it! (Zechariah 4:6-7).

When you look in a mirror, what do you see? If you look a little closer in the mirror, you will still see yourself, but you might also notice things that you don’t really like so much. Wrinkles, age spots, perhaps you might look a little depressed. Maybe when you look in the mirror you see a person who appears weak or you see a person who is broke. Did you know that God does not want us to look at ourselves in the natural way? God wants you to see yourself the way He sees you (Colossians 1:27). God wants you to see yourself as strong, as favored and whole because you reflect Christ.

Let’s go back to a portion from our main verses:“What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it’” (Zechariah 4:6-7)!

This isn’t supposed to read, “God bless it. God bless it.” I know that is how the text might read in your Bible but when you study the original text, only one Hebrew word is used twice. The word is (Chen). Shout to your mountain grace, grace! Which means to shout to your obstruction God’s favor, God’s favor! Do you see it? What is your hindrance? What is your mountain? What is the area you need a breakthrough in? Shout to it God’s Word. Speak grace to it. God’s favor is on me and over this hindrance. Speak God’s grace over that thing against you and watch as God levels it. Isaiah 26:7- “The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth.”

Look in the mirror today and behold as in a mirror the glory of His Son who is in you by His Spirit. As you do this, His Word says that you are being transformed from glory to glory—sick to healed, broken to whole. Mountains before you will be leveled not by anything other than by the Spirit of the Lord.

Take Up Your Cross

Take Up Your Cross

Daily Reading: (Luke 9:23): Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”   

How do you react to this text? “Whoever wants to be a disciple of Jesus must… take up their cross daily and follow Him.” The way I have heard this verse commonly and incorrectly used is in the preaching of self-denial. If this were true then the Gospel would not be good news. If we had a bad day or screwed up and didn’t properly deny ourselves, well I guess we’re just not a disciple of Jesus anymore. If this were the case it would mean that Christ’s death on the cross was not needed. It would also mean that the more you deny yourself the holier you’ll be. But go ahead and deny yourself from anything and everything and that won’t make you anymore righteous or holy, Isaiah 64:6 tells us that.

Another problem with this interpretation of preaching self-denial as a way of becoming righteous is that it will leave you anxious and insecure. “Have I denied myself enough?” Jesus suffered and die on the cross so that we might be free from this sort of religious way of life.

So, when we come to Luke 9:23 we must ask two very important questions if we really want to understand what Jesus is saying.

  • Question 1: Who is Jesus talking to in this verse?
  • Question 2: What Covenant are we now living in?

In verse 18 it says- “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” this progresses until we get into our verse.  If you want an even clearer answer where you don’t have to back up a few verses to understand who Jesus is referring to just read Matthew’s version (16:24).

The disciples were still living in the Old Covenant system. The New Covenant we live in was enacted after the death of Jesus. One purpose of the Old Covenant was to make it absolutely clear that no man is righteous before God and that no one can save himself (Romans 3:10–11, 20). “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” There are no off days if you are living according to your righteousness. The ultimate purpose of the Old Covenant was to point people to Christ: “The law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian” (Galatians 3:24–25). The Old Covenant established our guilt before God and our need for a Savior.

So. the correct translation of what Jesus is saying in Luke 9:23 happens as we continue moving forward in the text in the next two verses, verses 24 and 25.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self” (Luke 9:24-25)?

When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he’s saying the way to salvation is through Him and His cross. In the New Covenant taking up your cross daily doesn’t make sense and is impossible to do because you were already crucified (Galatians 2:20). I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me… (Gal 2:20a). The reason most Christians struggle to live the Christian life is they look at Luke 9:23 and are trying to die daily, they do not know they have already died with Christ.

“To deny yourself” (Luke 9:23) means to trust Jesus instead of self. Live each and every day out of the glorious relationship you have with the Lord. This Greek word “deny” (aparneomai) is to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests. This denial of self is the same thing for all Christians that the cross was for Jesus, namely, the submission to God’s will, not one’s own will.So, in our text Jesus made the cross central. Our Lord’s death was an absolute requirement and precondition of human redemption. As long as the will of man opposes the will of the Lord, salvation for that individual remains impossible.

Take Up Your Cross

Take Up Your Cross

Daily Reading: (Luke 9:23): Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”   

How do you react to this text? “Whoever wants to be a disciple of Jesus must… take up their cross daily and follow Him.” The way I have heard this verse commonly and incorrectly used is in the preaching of self-denial. If this were true then the Gospel would not be good news. If we had a bad day or screwed up and didn’t properly deny ourselves, well I guess we’re just not a disciple of Jesus anymore. If this were the case it would mean that Christ’s death on the cross was not needed. It would also mean that the more you deny yourself the holier you’ll be. But go ahead and deny yourself from anything and everything and that won’t make you anymore righteous or holy, Isaiah 64:6 tells us that.

Another problem with this interpretation of preaching self-denial as a way of becoming righteous is that it will leave you anxious and insecure. “Have I denied myself enough?” Jesus suffered and die on the cross so that we might be free from this sort of religious way of life.

So, when we come to Luke 9:23 we must ask two very important questions if we really want to understand what Jesus is saying.

  • Question 1: Who is Jesus talking to in this verse?
  • Question 2: What Covenant are we now living in?

In verse 18 it says- “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” this progresses until we get into our verse.  If you want an even clearer answer where you don’t have to back up a few verses to understand who Jesus is referring to just read Matthew’s version (16:24).

The disciples were still living in the Old Covenant system. The New Covenant we live in was enacted after the death of Jesus. One purpose of the Old Covenant was to make it absolutely clear that no man is righteous before God and that no one can save himself (Romans 3:10–11, 20). “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” There are no off days if you are living according to your righteousness. The ultimate purpose of the Old Covenant was to point people to Christ: “The law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian” (Galatians 3:24–25). The Old Covenant established our guilt before God and our need for a Savior.

So. the correct translation of what Jesus is saying in Luke 9:23 happens as we continue moving forward in the text in the next two verses, verses 24 and 25.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self” (Luke 9:24-25)?

When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he’s saying the way to salvation is through Him and His cross. In the New Covenant taking up your cross daily doesn’t make sense and is impossible to do because you were already crucified (Galatians 2:20). I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me… (Gal 2:20a). The reason most Christians struggle to live the Christian life is they look at Luke 9:23 and are trying to die daily, they do not know they have already died with Christ.

“To deny yourself” (Luke 9:23) means to trust Jesus instead of self. Live each and every day out of the glorious relationship you have with the Lord. This Greek word “deny” (aparneomai) is to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests. This denial of self is the same thing for all Christians that the cross was for Jesus, namely, the submission to God’s will, not one’s own will.So, in our text Jesus made the cross central. Our Lord’s death was an absolute requirement and precondition of human redemption. As long as the will of man opposes the will of the Lord, salvation for that individual remains impossible.

Two or Three Gathered…

Daily Reading: (Matthew 18:20):

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

You must have heard this before, but where? Not in a sermon typically. Perhaps when you were praying with other believers. What many have done is to take this verse to mean is that prayer with more people means an increase in the likely to gain God’s attention. This is not what Jesus is talking about here.

The truth of this passage is really good news because while it is powerful and important to pray together, in my greatest times of need, when an emergency situation arises, I don’t necessarily have the luxury of calling everyone over for a middle of the night prayer. Does that mean that when I pray by myself, God is not with me or will hear me? Does it mean that my prayer will be less powerful when I cry out to God alone and in distress? Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount the following:

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

Do I need at least two or three people, should I just always pray in secret, by myself? Obviously, context is important but the simple answer is. Pray all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:17) with others and by yourself.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is the greatest and most simple instruction for prayer. When should I pray…always! How should I pray? Rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. Pastor Matt I am supposed to give thanks in a bad diagnosis at the doctors office. How does that work? You aren’t giving thanks for the cancer because that is not from God. Thank Him that He is your Prince of Peace, and that His peace will arise in you and still the storms in your life. Thank God for being in the situation with you. Thank you for His divine healing made available to you in Jesus’ name.

Pray always with other believers whose prayers can bring encouragement and comfort and also pray by yourself. God hears you and is with you and your prayers are powerful with or without others. “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect” (James 5:16).

So, going back to our original text- what is up with that statement that when there are two or three gathered that Jesus says He is with them? Jesus is not saying we need to have three people to be with us in prayer in order for it to be worth Jesus time to show up. Did you know that in Matthew 18:20 Jesus wasn’t talking about prayer?It wouldn’t make sense if He was.

So, what was Jesus talking about if it wasn’t about prayer? In Matthew 18, He’s referring to an important part of Old Testament Law, the part about church discipline.

Jesus is explaining that if you have an issue with someone in the church…

  1. Talk to him or her privately about it.
  2. If they don’t want to hear it…Take two or three believers with you

*The heart of this approach is restoration. 

You know there is a chance he/she might not even be aware of the wrong they did. The word fault here is the Greek word (elegchō) meaning bring to light, expose it (privately). Bring the Word of God, who is the Light of the World into their situation to bring them to repentance, a change a mind about what they’ve done and are doing. If they listen to you, you have won them over. This is a Greek metaphor which means you have helped them escape from evil. You helped them from continuing to sin in that area and sin is destructive and it not only hurts them it hurts others as well.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:18-20).

Jesus is giving His disciples instruction (Matthew 18:1) about restoring someone who has gone astray (verses 12-14), and offering forgiveness (verses 23-35), and in between these parables of the wandering sheep and unmerciful servant, how the process of reconciliation works (verses 15-20). God assures us that as we go through the process of bringing our brother or sister in Christ back into the fold of the church, God will be a part of it and bless us for it.

I know that ultimately we want to put a number on how many times we should be willing to go through this process with someone. How many times if someone has wronged us should we extend forgiveness? That is what Peter is thinking and asks and that might be your next question too.

“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

70×7= 490. 490 is the numerical value of the biblical Hebrew word “tamim” which means to “complete,” “perfect,” or “finished.” A person who chose not to forgive will live a less than abundant life or incomplete life that lacks a true understanding of the “finished” gracious work of the cross.

When it comes to forgiveness toward an offender remember how greatly and how much you have been forgiven.