Keeping Secrets and Missing Opportunities: Matthew 17:1-13


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As we move through Matthew’s gospel, we come to an event that I wonder if it caused division among the disciples. In this event, Jesus takes the three closest disciples, He lets them experience something amazing, and then He tells them to keep quiet about what they saw until after He has been raised to life.

I wonder if the remaining disciples felt a little put off because of this, or if they simple accepted that the inner circle of three disciples got to learn something they didn’t.

Let’s read about what happened, and because this is in Matthew’s gospel, and because Matthew’s gospel was written after Jesus returned to life, we have this event included for all of us to know. Our passage and event, like all the passages and events found in this year of podcasting through Matthew, is found in Matthew’s gospel. Our passage for this episode is found in chapter 17, and we will read from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 1, Matthew tells us:

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John (the brother of James) and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone.

Jesus’ appearance changed in front of them. His face became as bright as the sun and his clothes as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them and were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll put up three tents hereā€”one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

He was still speaking when a bright cloud overshadowed them. Then a voice came out of the cloud and said, “This is my Son, whom I love and with whom I am pleased. Listen to him!”

The disciples were terrified when they heard this and fell facedown on the ground. But Jesus touched them and said, “Get up, and don’t be afraid!” As they raised their heads, they saw no one but Jesus.

On their way down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen. Wait until the Son of Man has been brought back to life.”

10 So the disciples asked him, “Why do the experts in Moses’ Teachings say that Elijah must come first?”

11 Jesus answered, “Elijah is coming and will put everything in order again. 12 Actually, I can guarantee that Elijah has already come. Yet, people treated him as they pleased because they didn’t recognize him. In the same way they’re going to make the Son of Man suffer.”

13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking about John the Baptizer.

In this passage, I am amazed at a number of things. First, I am amazed that Peter actually had what was necessary to set up three tents with him. Unless Peter’s promise was an empty promise, Peter had planned ahead and he had what was necessary for three tents.

However, I am also amazed at Jesus’ brief conversation with Moses and Elijah. I wonder if these two men came at this point to encourage Jesus at this point in His ministry, or if there was some other message they had for Him. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus would have been great friends, not just from the time these men spent on earth, but because they had also spent centuries together in heaven prior to Jesus coming as a baby.

I am also amazed that God the Father speaks again. I wonder if those off the mountain heard thunder, or if the sound was strictly confined to those in that small group of people on the mountain. It is interesting that God the Father tells these three disciples to listen to Jesus, and this is interesting in my mind because of what Jesus tells them next. After helping the disciples to their feet and telling them to not be afraid, Jesus tells them on the way down from the mountain: “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen. Wait until the Son of Man has been brought back to life.” (v. 9)

This statement would be the perfect opening to ask Jesus what He meant and to get more details about what would happen on the crucifixion weekend, but the disciples miss or pass on this opportunity.

Instead, the disciples ask a different question, and one that might be fresher on their minds after briefly seeing Elijah with Moses on the mountain. They ask why the experts in Moses’ Teachings say that Elijah must come first. While this is just the way this translation chose to translate the word for scribe, I find it a little amusing that experts in Moses’ teachings would be talking about Elijah. Moses lived many centuries before Elijah, and nothing in Moses’ teachings would even mention Elijah.

However, I digress a little. Jesus responds by predicting Elijah’s return, before then shifting His focus and saying that Elijah had actually already returned, but the people didn’t recognize Elijah’s return and they mistreated him. Jesus paralleled John the Baptizer’s suffering to His own suffering that would be coming up.

The disciples rightly conclude that Jesus was talking about John the Baptizer, and that John, who was Jesus’ forerunner in ministry, was the person who picked up the mantel of Elijah to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry. I’ve seen some people claim that John the Baptizer was a reincarnated Elijah, but the Elijah that appeared to the disciples on the mountain had a head, and no hint in this event suggests that anyone present believed Jesus to be talking with John the Baptizer while He was on the mountain.

It is interesting in my mind that Jesus subtly shifts the focus to His suffering. Just a few statements earlier, Jesus references His resurrection, and now Jesus referenced His suffering. I think Jesus was trying to get these disciples to ask Him questions about the upcoming crucifixion weekend, and of all the disciples, these three disciples were looked up to as being the leaders.

The disciples would need leadership especially during crucifixion weekend, and they would have benefitted greatly if one or more of this inner circle of three disciples had listened to Jesus and understood what Jesus was trying to teach them about His mission.

However, the disciples missed Jesus’ clues, and they miss this chance to ask Jesus the question He really wanted to be asked.

I believe this is the same in our own lives. I believe that too often, we have our own motives, agendas, thoughts, and perspectives, and that we miss opportunity after opportunity to come to God with the question He wants us to ask. I am probably as guilty as most everyone else in this regard. However, understanding this can help me change and grow.

Jesus came to give His life for you and for me, and Jesus’ death brings life to God’s people. God has a mission and a reason for each of us being alive at the point He has placed us in history, and when we understand why we are here, we are better able to live the mission God has placed before us.

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

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to ask God the questions that He leads you to ask. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn, grow, and discover God’s mission for your life because you were too narrow-minded to ask God the question He was trying to prompt you to ask. Instead, be open to asking God questions, and especially be open to listening for God’s response.

This is best done through prayer and personal Bible study. When we pray and study the Bible for ourselves, we can learn from God through the messages and words He has preserved for thousands of years, and we can learn the truth He wants to teach us. While God can and often does use other people to help lead and guide us, we should always bring what others teach and test their truths against what the Bible teaches. The Bible is God’s Source of Truth, and His truth will never contradict the Bible!

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 abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 31: In one of the most special events Jesus shares with three of His closest disciples, He tells them to keep this event a secret until a certain point in the future. Discover what this event was and a huge opportunity these three disciples miss because their minds were focused on something else.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Flashback Episode — Receiving Peace and Victory: John 16:16-33


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Over the past several episodes, we have been focusing in on Jesus’ last opportunity to share with the disciples before being betrayed and arrested. At this point, Judas Iscariot has likely already gathered the mob and soldiers who would arrest Jesus, and there isn’t much time left for Jesus and the remaining disciples to be together.

As Jesus begins to wrap up what He wants to share with His remaining followers, we come to our passage for this episode. This passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 16, and we will be reading it from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 16:

16 Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In this conclusion to Jesus’ message to His disciples, we see an interesting miscommunication. Jesus shares that while He has been speaking figuratively, He points forward to a time when He won’t have to use figurative language.

In response, the disciples exclaim that they are happy now that He is speaking clearly and without figures of speech. This response to Jesus’ message is followed up with a statement they likely unanimously make that now, after hearing this, they all believe that He came from God.

Jesus then responds by challenging them on this very point. If they truly all believed and knew what would happen, then they would not have been surprised or scared when the mob arrived to arrest Jesus. And even if they were surprised, they wouldn’t have abandoned Him.

However, in Jesus’ challenge to His disciples, we see a massive idea within His words that is a promise we can take and apply into our own lives. Verse 32 tells us that Jesus told the disciples: “You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

This truth is incredibly powerful. Regardless of what our circumstances look like, how we feel, or what Satan tries to tell us to discourage us, when we believe in Jesus, we are never alone. God the Father, and His Holy Spirit are always with us. Even if everyone else has abandoned us, God is still faithful, and His presence matters more than the presence of anyone else.

The reverse is also true. Even when we feel like we have failed God and left Him all alone, He is willing to accept us back when we are ready to come back. All the disciples failed Jesus, and Jesus was willing to accept back all the disciples who were willing to come back. The only disciple who didn’t return was Judas Iscariot, who committed suicide when realizing that He was responsible for Jesus’ death, and his decision could not be undone.

As Jesus wraps up this last message to His followers, He gives all of us a promise. Verse 33 shares this promise, which says: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

When we follow Jesus, He does not promise us a life that is trouble free. Our lives might include more trouble because of our decision to follow Him. However, we are to live each day with the peace God gives us, and this peace is built on the truth that Jesus overcame the world. Jesus overcame sin. Jesus overcame death. Jesus promises to include us in His victory when He returns as King!

This promise is one worth celebrating, especially when we look at how sin-filled the world is today!

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

Always seek God first and let His Holy Spirit influence your life. Trust that God knows the future; that He knows what will happen; and that through Jesus, He defeated Satan and overcame the world. Let God’s peace guide you through life and draw you to Him.

Also, always be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with God. A personal relationship with God is the best way to experience the peace He offers, and it is the best way to experience Jesus’ victory in your own life while sin is still present in this world.

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

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 31: In the last part of His message to the disciples on the night He was betrayed, Jesus talks about receiving His peace because He overcame the world. Discover why this is important to us living 2,000 years later.

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

Proclaiming Jesus: Matthew 16:13-28


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As we continue our journey through Matthew’s gospel, we come to a passage that is often split into two sections, but one that is very fascinating when we look at it as a whole. In the first part of this passage, Peter, the most outspoken disciple, is praised, while in the second part of this passage, Jesus calls Peter out as Satan.

Let’s read about what happened and draw out some things we can learn from what is shared. Like all of our passages for this “Year in Matthew”, our passage for this episode comes from Matthew’s gospel, chapter 16, and we will read it from the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 13, Matthew tells us that:

13 Jesus went to the territory near the town of Caesarea Philippi, where he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 “Some say John the Baptist,” they answered. “Others say Elijah, while others say Jeremiah or some other prophet.”

15 “What about you?” he asked them. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 “Good for you, Simon son of John!” answered Jesus. “For this truth did not come to you from any human being, but it was given to you directly by my Father in heaven. 18 And so I tell you, Peter: you are a rock, and on this rock foundation I will build my church, and not even death will ever be able to overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven; what you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and what you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

20 Then Jesus ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Pausing briefly, this is where most people stop reading. However, if we continue on, we discover something almost humoring.

Continuing in verse 21, Matthew tells us:

21 From that time on Jesus began to say plainly to his disciples, “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer much from the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. I will be put to death, but three days later I will be raised to life.”

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “God forbid it, Lord!” he said. “That must never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned around and said to Peter, “Get away from me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my way, because these thoughts of yours don’t come from God, but from human nature.”

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. 25 For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. 26 Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! There is nothing you can give to regain your life. 27 For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will reward each one according to his deeds. 28 I assure you that there are some here who will not die until they have seen the Son of Man come as King.”

In this passage, we find a ton of things we could focus in on, but to keep things simple, let’s focus on just two big ideas, with one or both of these ideas being things you may not have thought of before.

The first of these ideas is Jesus’ compliment to Peter. While a casual reading of Jesus’ statement might make it seem like Jesus elevates Peter’s status to being a rock that God’s church is built on, there is an interesting twist of words that expands Jesus’ compliment to include Peter, while also being much bigger.

Verse 18 includes Jesus statement: “And so I tell you, Peter: you are a rock, and on this rock foundation I will build my church, and not even death will ever be able to overcome it.” In this statement, Peter is compared with a rock, and then a rock foundation is where Jesus builds His church. While I’ve heard the original Greek language contrasts the idea of Peter being a pebble with the rock foundation being a boulder or a mountain-side, I like the way this translation compares these ideas.

In Jesus’ compliment, He recognizes Peter’s contribution, which is simply proclaiming a truth that Peter could only have learned from God the Father, and this truth makes the rock foundation that God’s church is built on. According to this translation, Peter’s rock contribution, combined with many other small rock contributions make up the huge rock foundation that God’s church is built on. This rock foundation is the truth that Peter proclaimed. Peter responded to Jesus’ question by proclaiming that: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

It is this truth that God’s church is built on, and when Peter makes this proclamation, He is reinforcing God’s church and God’s truth. When we make this proclamation, we are reinforcing God’s truth and God’s church!

The second big idea in this passage is Jesus’ big insult towards Peter. Just a few verses later, Jesus pulls the disciples aside and tries to warn them about what was waiting for them when they reached Jerusalem. Jesus tells them that He would suffer at the hands of the religious leaders, be put to death, and then be raised to life three days later. When I read this event, I wonder if Peter completely missed the last words in Jesus’ statement and that He stopped hearing Jesus’ words at the details about Jesus’ upcoming death.

Is Peter’s thinking really that crazy? Most people seem to blindly side with Jesus in judging Peter, but if you were walking around with Someone you firmly believed to be God, and you believed God to be immortal, which is another way of saying that they cannot die, if this Person told you they were going somewhere to die, would that sound crazy to you?

On top of this, the dominant understanding of prophecy was that the Messiah who God would send would last forever, and lasting forever doesn’t really happen when one has died.

I am pretty certain that Peter, and most of the rest of the disciples, either didn’t hear Jesus’ promise that at the end of the three days, He would be raised back to life, or they simply didn’t know what to think of it and perhaps forgot about it until after crucifixion weekend. This is because we don’t find any of the disciples eagerly looking forward to Jesus’ resurrection on the Sunday following His death. Instead, the disciples are hiding and likely trying to strategically plan their exit from the city.

However, Jesus understands prophecy, and He understood that death and resurrection were in His future. The big thing I can learn from Peter’s challenge is that regardless of whether I understand prophecy or how the Bible describes future events, my understanding is only as good as my willingness to be open to what God is continually revealing. If I close my mind to what God wants to teach me, then I will ultimately be like the disciples who missed out on the best warning they had regarding the events of crucifixion weekend. The disciples had every opportunity to know what would happen, but they were caught believing the traditional belief of the Messiah, and a belief that the Messiah could not experience death.

I don’t think Peter’s thought was crazy, but the motivation behind it was opposite of God’s plan, and this opposition was what Jesus challenged Peter on. It is crazy to think that God would die for humanity, but this truth is one of the biggest reasons Jesus came!

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

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally and purposefully seek God first and place your hope, your faith, your trust, and your belief in Jesus and what He accomplished for you. Choose to be open to what God wants to teach you and openly proclaim the truth that Jesus is God’s Messiah and that He is God’s Son!

Also, intentionally pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Through a personal relationship with God, we can learn and know what God wants to teach us and when we are open to God’s teaching, we will avoid the traps that even the disciples fell in when they refused to accept Jesus’ words for the common understanding of prophecy at that point in history.

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 stray from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 30: In a short passage, discover how Jesus compliments Peter with one of the highest compliments imaginable, before calling him Satan a few verses later. Discover what made Peter worthy of both the complement and the rebuke and why Peter’s thinking might not have been that crazy even if it wasn’t correct.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Flashback Episode — Letting the Spirit Teach: John 16:5-15


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As we continue moving through Jesus’ last big opportunity to share with the disciples on the night of His arrest, we come to Jesus teaching us what the role of the Holy Spirit is, what we can expect the Holy Spirit to do, and why it is better that that Jesus should return to heaven. However, I wonder if much of what Jesus was telling His disciples went over their heads. Either that, or I wonder if they understood a little, but not enough of the details to fully understand the events of that weekend.

Let’s read what Jesus shared with the disciples in this part of His message. Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 16, and we will be reading from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 5, Jesus continues by saying:

Now I am going back to the One who sent me. But none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Your hearts are filled with sadness because I have told you these things. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away. When I go away, I will send the Helper to you. If I do not go away, the Helper will not come. When the Helper comes, he will prove to the people of the world the truth about sin, about being right with God, and about judgment. He will prove to them that sin is not believing in me. 10 He will prove to them that being right with God comes from my going to the Father and not being seen anymore. 11 And the Helper will prove to them that judgment happened when the ruler of this world was judged.

Let’s pause briefly here because Jesus has just shared a number of big things. First off, we can understand that the disciples are sad because Jesus is leaving, but Jesus counters their sadness by telling them that if He doesn’t leave, the Helper, otherwise known as the Holy Spirit, will not come.

On the surface this doesn’t make sense, unless we believe that God isn’t going to be redundant. However, when reading this passage, I believe the reason for Jesus telling us that the Helper would not come unless He leaves is tucked within the role of the Holy Spirit that Jesus then shares.

Jesus describes three roles the Holy Spirit has in addition to being called our Helper. The first is that the Holy Spirit will prove to the people of this world that sin is not believing in Jesus, the second is that being right with God comes from Jesus’ return to Heaven and not being seen any more, and the third is that judgment happened when the ruler of this world was judged.

These are three huge theological concepts and it would take too much time to fully unpack each of them. However, let’s briefly look at each.

The first huge concept is that sin is not believing in Jesus. As we read this just now, I could not escape the idea that the sin being described here is the unpardonable sin. Not that this sin isn’t reversible, but that every other sin gets erased if at the time of our last breath, we believe in Jesus. While Jesus says that those who speak out against Him will be forgiven, while those who speak against the Holy Spirit are not, I wonder if that verse connects with this verse to define what sin is truly unpardonable.

At the moment we die, the only thing that matters is our belief in Jesus, and this one decision determines our fate in the judgment. This is an idea I just had. It’s worth studying further, but I thought I’d share it with you as I had it.

The second huge concept is that being right with God comes from Jesus returning to the Father. While this is a huge theological concept, the simplest way for me to understand this personally is that when Jesus came, He came as a representative for God. Jesus was Heaven’s Ambassador to earth. Jesus came to show us God’s love.

Following His death and resurrection, Jesus’ return to Heaven marks a shift in His role. While before this Jesus was representing Heaven, now that He has returned to Heaven, He is representing us. Before Jesus was an Ambassador; now He is an Advocate. If you are worried about God’s judgment, trust that Jesus is in Heaven right now defending you with His sacrifice. When we have placed our faith, hope, belief, and trust in Jesus, His sacrifice erases our sinful past, and Jesus becomes our defense attorney. Jesus standing before the accuser defending us is an amazing, powerful, and profound concept that the Holy Spirit wants us to remember.

The third huge concept is that “judgment happened when the ruler of this world was judged”. This verse is translated in an interesting way. Other translations describe a future judgment that is solidified at the moment the ruler of this world was judged. When the Holy Spirit came to the disciples, Jesus describes the event in past tense, which means that when Jesus died, Satan was judged guilty. When the curtain in the temple was torn in two, which we will read about later this year, Jesus tells us Satan is judged as guilty.

The big truth for us to remember living today is that judgment happened against Satan, and He is guilty. God is preparing to return and to carry out this judgment. This means that we have a choice to side with Satan, who has already been judged as guilty, or side with Jesus, who became victorious through His death on the cross. Jesus’ victory was sealed with the resurrection.

All three of these huge theological concepts focus on Jesus, what He has done, and what He is currently doing for each of us.

Jesus continues in verse 12 by saying:

12 “I have many more things to say to you, but they are too much for you now. 13 But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you into all truth. He will not speak his own words, but he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come. 14 The Spirit of truth will bring glory to me, because he will take what I have to say and tell it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. That is why I said that the Spirit will take what I have to say and tell it to you.

When the Holy Spirit came, Jesus promised that He would teach Jesus’ followers the truth about Jesus and about the world. These followers were transformed when the Holy Spirit came into their lives. We would not be believers today if it were not for their life-transformation.

But it would be a mistake to think that the same offer Jesus gave His early followers is reserved only for them. The same offer of the Holy Spirit is available for us today. If we are serious about growing towards God, then we should let the Holy Spirit teach us the truth about Jesus. This truth will match what the Bible teaches, this truth will transform our lives, and this truth will lead us into eternity!

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

As always, be sure to seek God first in your life and ask Him to send His Holy Spirit into your life to teach you the truth about Jesus. Let God show you through His Word who Jesus is and why this historical figure who lived 2000 years ago is worth paying attention to today!

In order to learn this and grow, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself. Personal prayer and study is the way to grow a personal relationship with God, and the Holy Spirit is more than willing to lead you to the truth about Jesus when you take steps towards God with a desire to learn His truth. Pastors, authors, speakers, and even podcasters can give you ideas to think about, but never let anyone get between you and Jesus.

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

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 30: In this passage, Jesus tells the disciples several roles of the Holy Spirit and what they could expect from His coming. Learn what the Holy Spirit came to accomplish, and what He is willing to accomplish in our lives when we let Him in!

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