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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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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Unprepared: Luke 21:5-19

Focus Passage: Luke 21:5-19 (NASB)

One morning, while studying this passage, a phrase caught me off guard.

You might know the feeling. You’re reading along, perhaps remembering many of the past times you read this same passage, and then you see it – a sentence or phrase that you never realized was there. “Who snuck that into my Bible?!” you ask.

Well, I had a similar moment while reading this passage. I was reading along, until verse 14 jumped out at me and caused me to pause. Here’s verses 13-15 to give verse 14 context: “It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.” [verse 14 italicized]

By nature, by experience, or maybe even by personality I am a natural planner. My mind is always exploring the possible options and the various potential outcomes for my current list of upcoming decisions. If there is a possibility for something to happen, such as guest speaking or receiving an urgent new project at work, I will have a basic plan in place. This is why verse 14 challenges me.

Jesus tells His followers not to prepare beforehand. With my track record, I don’t know if I am capable of “not preparing” for anything. I suppose if I am faced with this type of opportunity to share my faith, I will need to force myself to not think about it, because my thoughts will organize themselves into a plan.

But, with this challenge, Jesus also gives a promise: “for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.” (verse 15)

Not only is this promise huge, it also brings peace into my mind and my heart. However, Jesus’ promise does not say that our opponents will accept the words He gives us, or that we will become friends afterwards. We need to look no further than the formerly blind man who was pulled in before the Pharisees and chief priests in John 9:13-34. They repeatedly questioned him, and when finally things have become about as tense as they will get in verses 30-33, the formerly blind man gives such a wise remark that it cannot be refuted, even though the leaders reject it.

In our passage for this entry, Jesus promises to do the same for us as He did through the Holy Spirit with this formerly blind man. The formerly blind man’s profound statement was perfectly timed and it couldn’t have been planned beforehand. Focus on staying close to Jesus, and He will help you respond to any accusations that come your way.

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Seeking Glory: John 5:16-47

Focus Passage: John 5:16-47 (NIV)

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.

33 “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

45 “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

Read John 5:16-47 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In one of Jesus’ replies to a challenge He received, He shared a statement that completely shifted my perspective on His character. While Jesus hints at this idea earlier while talking about John’s testimony, He clearly states it several verses later in a way that doesn’t leave any loopholes for misunderstanding His intent.

During His response, Jesus directly states, “I do not accept glory from human beings.” (v. 41)

However, He quickly follows this up by saying “But I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.” (v. 42)

If Jesus followed His “but I know you” statement with an exception, or with a group of people who truly gives Him glory, then we might think He shared an exception to the rule. But Jesus essentially follows up by saying that He especially doesn’t accept glory from those who don’t have God’s love in their hearts. A human being who believes in Him may give Him glory, but He doesn’t accept it. A human being who does not believe would be even less likely to give Him glory, and even in the rare case that they do, He still would not accept it.

The next two logical questions we could ask ourselves are, “Does Jesus ever accept glory from anyone/anything?”, and “Since Jesus doesn’t accept glory from human beings, where does the glory go that is directed His way?

To answer our questions, we can continue reading to learn a little more about what Jesus meant. Jesus continues by saying, “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (v. 43-44)

The response to our second question is easier to see. Since Jesus came in His Father’s name, any credit (i.e. glory) we try to give Him will be directed upwards toward the Father. Reading this shifted my thinking and prompted me to open my eyes to seeing miracles Jesus did where the gospel writers share that glory went to God the Father. In case you are wondering, there are many such examples. Giving the Father glory was one thing that motivated Jesus to help and heal people.

The response to our first question is trickier to see, but Jesus hints at it when He talks about how we should “seek the glory that comes from the only God”. (v. 44b)

While Jesus does not accept glory from us, He does accept glory from the Father, and He does allow the Holy Spirit to work through Him. In this way, Jesus sets an example for each of us – and it reveals His character. At the core of Jesus’ character is a 100% focus on God (the Father), and this God-focus can be a test we can use to determine whether someone is truly sent from God or not.

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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