Trading this Life for Eternity: Matthew 10:16-42

Focus Passage: Matthew 10:16-42 (GNT)

16 “Listen! I am sending you out just like sheep to a pack of wolves. You must be as cautious as snakes and as gentle as doves. 17 Watch out, for there will be those who will arrest you and take you to court, and they will whip you in the synagogues. 18 For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles. 19 When they bring you to trial, do not worry about what you are going to say or how you will say it; when the time comes, you will be given what you will say. 20 For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “People will hand over their own brothers to be put to death, and fathers will do the same to their children; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. 22 Everyone will hate you because of me. But whoever holds out to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, run away to another one. I assure you that you will not finish your work in all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “No pupil is greater than his teacher; no slave is greater than his master. 25 So a pupil should be satisfied to become like his teacher, and a slave like his master. If the head of the family is called Beelzebul, the members of the family will be called even worse names!

26 “So do not be afraid of people. Whatever is now covered up will be uncovered, and every secret will be made known. 27 What I am telling you in the dark you must repeat in broad daylight, and what you have heard in private you must announce from the housetops. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell. 29 For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. 30 As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows!

32 “Those who declare publicly that they belong to me, I will do the same for them before my Father in heaven. 33 But those who reject me publicly, I will reject before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 I came to set sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law; 36 your worst enemies will be the members of your own family.

37 “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. 38 Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39 Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.

40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he is God’s messenger, will share in his reward. And whoever welcomes a good man because he is good, will share in his reward. 42 You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.”

Read Matthew 10:16-42 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Many Christians today believe that Jesus taught peace and tolerance towards all people. In this belief, we find a movement of people who focus on ignoring and minimizing the differences between the different worldviews and many of these people do so without realizing that Jesus never really taught His followers to be this way. Jesus did teach that His followers should love others, but love is different from tolerance.

In His first big message focused towards the newly-formed core group of twelve followers, Jesus tells them, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. I came to set sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law; your worst enemies will be the members of your own family.” (v. 34-36)

This sounds like the opposite of tolerance. Jesus came and He is the cause of division between families. He even warns that His followers’ worst enemies may be members of their own respective families. It is in this context that Jesus shares a challenging statement that has bothered many people out of context. Jesus continues by saying, “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.” (v. 37-39)

Many people have wondered why Jesus would require His followers to love Him more than their parents or children. On the surface, this sounds selfish and opposite from a “loving”, “selfless” God. But in context, Jesus’ words make more sense. If a parent, sibling, or child does not agree with our decision to follow Jesus, then they place themselves in the group Jesus describes as our enemies. These family members may be passive in their dislike about our decision, or they may be openly hostile towards us because of our decision.

When this happens, Jesus says that we are called to love them, but to love Him more. We are called and encouraged to stay loyal to Jesus regardless of who stands against us. This is what Jesus means when we are to love Him more than our closest family members.

Jesus finishes off by encouraging us to not hold onto our lives too tightly. If we fear death, and we let this fear drive our decisions, then it too can pull us away from God. If we try to keep our life through rejecting Jesus because of the pressure of culture or oppression, then we may lengthen it briefly, but we will have lost it eternally. However, if we lose our lives because of our faith in Jesus, we really have only lost the sin-filled, temporary life in this age of God’s kingdom. By losing our lives because we have chosen to follow Jesus, we solidify our eternal lives in the next age of God’s kingdom – and the next age lasts forever!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Flashback Episode — John’s Urgent Message: Luke 3:1-18


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As we continue into the gospels this year, we transition out of the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth, and now come to the introduction of Jesus’ forerunner in ministry, John the Baptist. While the gospel writers focus heavily on Jesus in their books, which we want and expect them to do, all four gospels give a little focus towards John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus to step into His public ministry.

The gospel of Luke, chapter 3, sets the scene and identifies the point in history this all happened. Let’s read what Luke shares as he makes the transition from talking about Jesus’ birth and childhood onto John the Baptist’s public ministry. We’ll be reading from Luke, chapter 3, starting in verse 1 from the New Living Translation:

It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea; Herod Antipas was ruler over Galilee; his brother Philip was ruler over Iturea and Traconitis; Lysanias was ruler over Abilene. Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness. Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.

Let’s pause reading here because I want to draw our attention onto something that might be very easy to miss. If we look at how Luke sets the stage and how he words the first verses of this chapter, it reads more like a historical stage than a fictitious stage. In other words, Luke draws our attention onto a specific point in history, which lends credibility that he wrote his gospel to document history, despite what critics might say or think.

Luke also draws our attention to the detail that John gets the nickname of “Baptist” or “Baptizer” because his message was one of repentance and he stressed that those who wanted to show they had repented should be baptized in a public setting.

Continuing on, Luke also describes how John the Baptist was prophesied about in the Old Testament. Picking back up in verse 4, we learn that:

Isaiah had spoken of John when he said,

“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
    Clear the road for him!
The valleys will be filled,
    and the mountains and hills made level.
The curves will be straightened,
    and the rough places made smooth.
And then all people will see
    the salvation sent from God.’”

Pausing briefly again, I wonder if John had read this prophecy about himself and felt a little overwhelmed. Imagine for a moment this message described you. How might you live your life if you knew you were helping to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming?

How did John do this? Luke then describes how John framed his message and what he challenged those who came to listen to him to do with their lives.

Continuing our reading in verse 7, we learn that:

When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”

10 The crowds asked, “What should we do?”

11 John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”

12 Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?”

13 He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.”

14 “What should we do?” asked some soldiers.

John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.”

If you ever wondered if God or Jesus would have a message for us living today about how we should live, we can take what John says and pull out some big themes.

John challenged those in the first century to “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” and I believe this could be a challenge for all of us living today as well. The best decision you can make is putting your belief, faith, and trust in Jesus to save you from your sins, but the way you make your decision public is by repenting, which is a fancy religious word for choosing to intentionally not do a particular bad action anymore and instead replace it with a good habit and action.

John challenges Christians throughout time that our lives are our greatest witness to others whether we have truly accepted Jesus into our hearts.

John challenges us to not rest on our past ancestry, our past choices, or even our past accomplishments. Instead, he challenges us to live our repentance each day we want Jesus in our lives.

John challenges believers to be generous, to be honest, and to be kind to each other. While this sounds incredibly simple, it is actually one of the hardest challenges for each of us to live out each day. While there are some people who can love others effortlessly, others, such as myself, must intentionally choose to love in this way because there are some people who don’t make loving them easy.

John’s message cut to the heart of the people living in the first century, and Luke draws our attention to another interesting detail. Continuing in verse 15, we learn that:

15 Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and they were eager to know whether John might be the Messiah. 16 John answered their questions by saying, “I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.” 18 John used many such warnings as he announced the Good News to the people.

While I might not think that John’s warnings sound like “Good News”, we can see from the anticipation in John’s message that he believed Jesus would come and usher in a new age of the world. Some people living today believe this to be the case. All the Old Testament prophecies seemed to point to the Messiah coming and setting things straight, but we might wonder why things are still messed up. Is the urgency in John’s message misplaced?

Should we give our message about Jesus a sense of urgency similar to John, or would that be misplaced too?

I don’t believe any message about Jesus is wrong to have a sense of urgency applied to it. Every time we share Jesus with others, we should include a sense of urgency because of two things.

First, there will be a time that the world will end and Jesus will come back. Each day brings us one day closer to this event.

Secondly, with rare exceptions, each of us don’t know when our lives will end, and if our lives end before Jesus returns, then it doesn’t really matter when Jesus comes back for us specifically. If you or I only have a week or year to live, this makes our decision for Jesus urgent for us. Since we don’t know the day we will die, it’s safest to live every day with the sense of urgency that either Jesus will return today, or that our lives might end today leading to the next thing we see being Jesus.

John challenged those present in the first century to be ready for Jesus’ first coming, and all of us in the 21st century should focus on preparing ourselves for Jesus’ second coming!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always start by challenging you, intentionally seek God first in your life. Live your life with a sense of urgency, and with an intentional purpose of growing closer to God. While we don’t know when our lives will end or when exactly Jesus will return, we do know that only one decision matters in the end, and that is whether we have placed Jesus first, repented, and intentionally chosen to put our focus, faith, trust, and belief on Jesus.

Also, as I regularly challenge you to do in one way or another, as we move forward in life and history, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself so you will be able to know and understand what God and Jesus are really like. The better we know the God of the Bible, and Jesus who came showing us a picture of God, the better we will be able to recognize Jesus when He returns.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or fall away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 3: As Luke transitions away from Jesus’ childhood, before describing Jesus as an adult, discover how Luke describes Jesus’ forerunner in ministry, John the Baptist, and what made John’s ministry important and significant.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Fighting Worry: Luke 21:34-38

Focus Passage: Luke 21:34-38 (CEV)

34 Don’t spend all of your time thinking about eating or drinking or worrying about life. If you do, the final day will suddenly catch you 35 like a trap. That day will surprise everyone on earth. 36 Watch out and keep praying that you can escape all that is going to happen and that the Son of Man will be pleased with you.

37 Jesus taught in the temple each day, and he spent each night on the Mount of Olives. 38 Everyone got up early and came to the temple to hear him teach.

Read Luke 21:34-38 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Following Jesus’ discussion about the end times, the gospel of Luke nicely summarizes a key idea Jesus shares about where we should place our focus. While Matthew and Mark include interesting details that help bring out similar themes and ideas, Luke’s recollection sounds the most practical of the gospel writers in this instance.

Luke concludes by sharing Jesus’ key point with the disciples saying, “Don’t spend all of your time thinking about eating or drinking or worrying about life. If you do, the final day will suddenly catch you like a trap. That day will surprise everyone on earth. Watch out and keep praying that you can escape all that is going to happen and that the Son of Man will be pleased with you.” (v. 34-36)

This main idea Jesus shares is powerful. Basically Jesus is saying that when we allow life’s busyness to crowd into our life through worry, we will miss out on the most important things we should be doing. These important things center on keeping our connection with God strong.

Jesus tells everyone present that the day He returns “will surprise everyone on earth.” (v. 35)

But Jesus also tells us how we can keep our connection with God strong. In addition to pushing back worry and busyness, Jesus tells us to “Watch out and keep praying that you can escape all that is going to happen and that the Son of Man will be pleased with you.” (v. 36)

In Matthew and Mark, the key theme in place of watching out is being alert and paying attention. Jesus is giving us a warning we can count on, and the way we move forward with God is through prayer. Jesus instructs us here to “keep praying” because it is through prayer that we stay connected with God.

Life seems to always give us something we can worry about. Whether life’s worry comes through an uncertain or unstable job, whether it comes from needing a job, or whether it comes from friends and/or family drama, government instability, overseas tension, or increased violence in the world, the way we push back is through prayer – specifically bringing our worries and concerns to God. When we do, He can remind us of eternity, and how the challenges we face today are insignificant when compared with eternal life with Him.

God cares about the challenges we face and He wants to help us. But His number one goal is preparing us for heaven. Everything He does and has done for us fits within the context of this goal!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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The Wedding Miracle: John 2:1-12


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In our last episode, we started talking about Jesus’ famous first-miracle at the wedding of Cana. However, our last episode focused on the faith of those present before and after the miracle, and not on the miracle itself. For this episode, we’ll look again at this miracle, but focus in on another huge idea we can learn from it.

Let’s read the whole passage surrounding this miracle then dive into what we can discover from it. Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 2, and we will read it from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. 9 When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, 10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.

While the faith of Mary and the disciples is very present in this passage, there was faith present among the servants too. I probably should have pulled this detail out last week when putting that episode together.

However, what really stands out to me is that the bridegroom receives credit for something he had no direct part in. It’s a little humoring that we don’t have any response from the bridegroom himself, and it’s possible the bridegroom was speechless not having known exactly what happened. John points out that only the servants, and the early disciples, knew where the wine came from, and that it was merely water minutes before.

But what really stands out in my mind when reading this is the statement the headwaiter tells the bridegroom. In verse 10, the headwaiter tells the bridegroom, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.

This statement is as profound in the headwaiter’s eyes as it is symbolic in our own. Too many people alive today think that what we see in this life is all there is to see. Culture pressures people to live by the philosophy “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”—which is ultimately a recipe for living hopeless lives. The implication is that we have the good in life first, but then it just goes downhill from here. The implication is also that there is nothing to look forward to after death. The implication in the headwaiter’s statement is that after those present eat and drink freely, then those involved don’t realize that the quality of their drink is poorer than before, and in a symbolic sense, their lives begin to slide downhill as well.

But the symbolic counter-cultural message here is that Jesus flips this idea upside down. When Jesus is involved, what we thought was good wine served first is really poorer quality because what comes next is infinitely better. While those living without Jesus live hopeless lives believing that times are good then worse, when we live with Jesus, we can face the good and bad times in this life knowing that the best is still to come.

However, this isn’t the only amazing thing that stands out in my mind with this miracle and what it foreshadows.

When discovering that this miracle was Jesus’ first miracle, we see that it was at a wedding, and Jesus is responsible for resupplying the wine. Once you see this parallel, it is hard to unsee it, because during the last supper, Jesus parallels the wine with His blood which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins, and Jesus promises to wait to drink it until the great wedding feast when the church comes as a bride to meet Jesus, her groom.

At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and the very first miracle designed to prompt people to pay attention, Jesus is at a wedding feast, and in my mind’s eye, the first thing the church will do when we have been joined with Jesus Christ is have a great wedding feast celebrating Jesus’ sacrifice and His victory for all of us!

Both the truth we see in the headwaiter’s statement and the truth we see foreshadowed in Jesus’ presence at a wedding point us to look forward to what God is preparing for us. While this life has its ups and downs, and its positives and negatives, when we live with God, we have hope. We look forward to the wedding feast, and we look forward to our future, eternal life with God forever!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always intentionally seek God first and remember that with whatever we face in this life, our future with Jesus will be better than our life in our current sin-filled world.

Also, be sure to intentionally pray and study the Bible for yourself and grow personally closer to Jesus each and every day. Don’t assume or take for granted what the Bible teaches. Choose to study God’s truth out for yourself to discover what He wants you to learn from His Story and His plan of redemption.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 3: When Jesus turns water into wine as His first miracle, discover how this event foreshadows what we can look forward to when this life is over.

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