Tag Archives: commentary

Enemy of God [Our Condition Apart from New Birth]

Part of the 10 Hard Truths about Being Born Againseries.

You whore, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?

And don’t you know, if you are a friend with the world, then you are an enemy of God?

No. I haven’t gone bonkers.

Simply quoting  to make a point: The person dead-set on embracing all the world has to offer can never please God.

And that’s a dangerous thing. Let me explain.

The Sum of Human Affairs

First, let’s define the word “world.” In James 4:4 it refers to the customs, practices and interests of man. It refers to the sum of human affairs.

And what are the sum of human affairs? Sex, money, fame and power. Subtle as a stiff-necked refusal to nurture a spouse. Vivid and wicked as bashing a baby into a tree.

Quiet as a college student cheating on a test. Loud as a state governor’s addiction to call girls.

These are the sum of human affairs. Affairs that the enemy of God quite often views as neutral, harmless or even inviting.

The Problem with Embracing Human Affairs

, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

In other words, a decision for sex, money fame or power is a decision against God. A decision at odds with serving Christ. You will be consumed by one or the other. Not both. And which one you choose is important.

, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

This statement–like eleven others in a recent post–are designed to determine your authenticity as a Christian. Designed to determine your commitment to Christ. Either you are submitted or not.

Do This to Know If You’re Submitted to Christ

How do you know if you are submitted or not? Here’s one way.

Which way do your thoughts move? If they move towards the pleasure of God, the welfare of your soul, the concern of things eternal, then your mind is after Christ.

But if your thoughts move towards the pleasure of man, the welfare of the flesh, the concern of the earth, then your mind is after the world.

Bottom line: A love for the world means you are NOT committed to Christ. Thus, you are dead, dark and hard toward God. You are a captive to the world. God’s enemy. And spiritually dead.

What does that mean? Three things.

1. You are a slave to self and sin.

2. God wants to destroy you.

3. You can’t do anything about it.

Enter Jesus Christ. The only person who can change your condition. He can raise you from spiritual death. Open your spiritual eyes. Remove God’s wrath. And secure peace between you and God.

That means God can subject the unbeliever to his will and law. But the carnal mind can’t do it on his own. His carnality must be broken. It must be driven out.

The Spiritual Problem with Carnality

Without the Holy Spirit our minds are resistant to God’s authority. Thus, we will not–we CANNOT–submit to God. And if we can’t submit to him, we can’t please him.

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 

Unfortunately, the law requires inward obedience. Fortunately, that obedience comes by faith in Jesus Christ. .

Here’s what you have to keep in mind: God demonstrated his hatred for sin by the sufferings of Jesus on the cross. But in that one act we were pardoned. We were justified. We were given new life and the ability to please God.

We were given an alien righteousness we could not attain apart from the new birth. And this is why you need to be born again.

Your Turn

I summarized human affairs as sex, money, fame and power. Do you agree? Disagree? Add anything to it?

And what does submitting to Christ look like to you? I look forward to your thoughts. Brutal and all.

Hard-Hearted Ignorance [Our Condition Apart from the New Birth]

Part of the10 Hard Truths about Being Born Againseries.

Our problem–that is, our condition apart from the new birth–is not our ignorance…

It’s something deeper.

 that an unbeliever is alienated from God due to his ignorance. An ignorance that comes from a hard heart.

We are excluded from God…we are children of wrath…we are spiritually blind…we are dead from sin…we are all these things and more from an ever hardening of our hearts to the things of God.

A hardening that intensifies as we continue to sin. As we continue to turn away from God.

This is why subtle, slow rebellion is so dangerous. It’s a slippery slope into moral and spiritual death.

Here’s How Subtle, Slow Rebellion Works

We begin by distorting spiritual and moral issues. We then succumb to sensuality. To greed. We turn blind and hard as a rock. And we lose all moral restraint…

And  with our sinfulness.

That some souls never reach these extremes is due only to  and the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit.

But this is why we need more than God’s common grace. We need to be born again. Why we need a new heart. A heart of flesh. And not a heart of stone.

The stony heart is like the –unfit to absorb the seed and bear good fruit.

The Heart Mastered by the Messiah

In Christ–in the new birth–we are promised a new heart.  says:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

A new heart turned from sin and towards God. A heart succumbed to its Creator. Sanctified. Sensitive to sin. Etched with the law of Christ. Subservient to the law of Christ.

A new mind converted from carnal to spiritual. Happy to pursue God’s law. Bent on complying with the whole will. Passionate to be mastered by it. To suffer for it. And upset when he breaks it.

A hard heart softened into flesh. That is the work of Christ. That is the new birth. That is the start of a campaign to mould one’s self into the image of his savior–Jesus Christ.

What We Must Do

Unless God awakens our spiritual senses and exposes our ingratitude, we cannot do this ourselves. We must allow him to turn us to faith. To Jesus Christ. Who’s loved us and continues to love us perfectly. We must humble ourselves before him.

Transfiguration: An Otherworldy Peek at the Messiah

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Long ago, on the slopes of the highest mountain in Israel, Jesus led a small group of followers to an isolated grove and then, in front of their eyes,  from a flesh and blood man into a being shining white as the sun.

Then Moses appears…spokesperson for the redeemed who entered the kingdom through death.

Spokesperson for the Law.

Then Elijah appears…spokesperson for the redeemed who entered the kingdom through translation.

Spokesperson for the Prophets.

Moses and Elijah talk with Jesus. The subject: his coming death. An event that would conquer–not political oppression or military occupation–but sin and death.

An event that would secure the redemption of mankind. An event that would anchor the gospel entrusted to you and I.

The Climax to Messianic Revelations

The Transfiguration is the final, climactic earthly revelation of Jesus as Messiah before his crucifixion.

Remember, the tension on his messianic revelation was building as he cast out demonsconquered storms and cured the paralytic.

As his family rejected him. And rough, impetuous followers embraced him.

The Transfiguration and Our Wicked Hearts

Of course it’s an event our corrupt natures crave. In this scene, God overshadows these sinful, unglorified men and they naturally want to stay there. Forever.

And so would we.

The disciples response to this unusual appearance of God was typical of man since he sinned in the garden: They did a face plant in fear.

I’m confident I would, too.

But here’s what you need to know: For a moment Jesus is no longer the suffering servant. He is the king arrayed in his splendor. He’s given the disciples–and us–a peek at the otherworldly nature of his glorified state.

Where You Could Go Wrong

Yet we would be wrong to look for a heaven here upon a corrupt earth. To demand a repeat of this extraordinary event every month, week or day.

Just like Peter and the disciples, we have important work to do: Bring Christ to the suffering and the sinful. Preach the gospel. In the very ordinary, very dirty business of life.

Home. Church. Work. Subdivision. Mall.

The people in these very ordinary, very dirty places all need the message we carry. That means WE’VE been redeemed for a point. Saved so we can .

We weren’t meant to hunker down in our redemption, hoard our salvation or map out our rapture in private.

We were meant to crawl out of the trenches and engage–in mercy and grace–the enemies of our king.

**Part of The Messiah: Eleven Meditations from the Book of Mark series.** You can start reading a PDF version of  right now.

The Anointed: A Reckless but Beautiful Act of Worship

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March 28, 33 AD.

Jesus reclines on a thin mat around a low table in the home of a leper named Simon who lives in Bethany, a small village on the south side of the Mount of Olives.

Jesus reclines with Simon and other guests, including Lazarus.

The Lazarus who not too long ago lay dead three days in a tomb.

The Lazarus who, but for the voice of Jesus, would still be in the tomb.

One Reckless, but Beautiful Act of Worship

Lazarus’ sister Martha is serving food. The men talk. Lazarus’ other sister, Mary, enters. She’s carrying a jar of expensive funeral perfume. Perfume she bought for her own burial.

She breaks the jar and pours it on Jesus’ feet. She then pours it on Jesus’ head. She then lets her hair down in front of men she’s not married to and wipes Jesus’ feet with it.

The fragrance overwhelms the aroma of food. Everyone quiets, except one man.

One Ugly Rebuke

Judas stands and scolds Mary for her reckless act. He says the perfume could’ve been sold and the money given to the poor. , “Leave her alone…why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

And then Jesus promises that her one reckless act of worship will be remembered anytime the gospel is preached. Why?

Her dramatic act demonstrated–beyond words–her love, devotion and loyalty to Jesus. A man who not only raised her brother from the dead, but a man who was willing to lose his own life for the sake of others. Like you.

Your Own Risky, but Calculated Acts of Worship

So, the question is, what are you willing to risk  for Jesus that he might describe as beautiful?

1. Give away your life savings?

2. Neglect your own burial?

3. Appear ridiculous in public?

4. Offend your spouse?

5. Tarnish your reputation?

Mary’s act was an act of worship. A symbol of her deep loyalty to Jesus. And a costly way to show gratitude for raising her brother Lazarus from the dead.

But Jesus described it as beautiful.

Something to Keep in Mind

She did what she could. She gave what she had. Not what she didn’t have.

So you don’t have to mourn what you don’t have. Rejoice in what you do have. And give recklessly. . The tangible and the intangible.

And when you’ve decided before the Lord what you can give to him as an act of worship, don’t wait. Do it now.

Risk it all so that he may one day say, “What you did was beautiful.” His is the only affirmation you should ever care about.

**Part of The Messiah: Eleven Meditations from the Book of Mark series.** You can start reading a PDF version of  right now.

Abandonment of Christianity: 2 Things That Occur

**Part of the 10 Hard Truths about Being Born Again series**

A funny thing seems to happen on the way to becoming an atheist…

You become a better person.

At least that’s the perennial refrain I hear from those who’ve made the transition from Christian to atheist.

[Of course it’s debatable whether they were even Christians to begin with.]

But there’s just one problem…

Two things essentially rise from an abandonment of Christianity. Your sense of morality. And your bitterness towards God.

Naturally, when you lower the barrier for goodness, you’ll appear more moral. You really don’t have to exert yourself…just lower the bar, and BAM…

You’re a pretty decent guy. [Or gal.]

Yet, when anyone brings up God as the true standard for goodness, you stiff-arm what you imagine to be excessive demands.

Who knew you could be so ? And why? This hatred comes from a mind that’s conscious of it’s guilt.

If your own personal moral standard is in danger, the best thing to do is fight back. Tooth and claw. Guard your right to think, say or do what you want.

Of course, the ultimate insult to an atheist is that unbelief should be punished with eternal death. :

All think it harsh that they who do not believe in Christ should be devoted to destruction. That no man may ascribe his condemnation to Christ, he shows that every man ought to impute the blame to himself. The reason is, that unbelief is a testimony of a bad conscience; and hence it is evident that it is their own wickedness which hinders unbelievers from approaching to Christ.

And this is precisely why new birth is essential: Not only are you dead…but you also live in the dark. And hate the light. The light that exposes your sin.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. 

Jesus’ purpose was never to condemn the world. We do that ourselves when we reject Christ. Jesus’ purpose was to save the world.

He came to bring the gift of new birth. He came to invite you to join God’s family–to go from being a child of wrath to a child of God–initiated by repentance.

In the end, new birth brings about a conviction of moral poverty. It opens our eyes to see we are miserable and destitute of all power of doing good. And it brings about a rushing to the grace of God.

So, since we live in and love the dark, let’s learn that we can’t judge our works by any other standard than the light of the gospel. There’s just no other way.

Son of Man: Something You Will and Won’t See

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Which is easier to prove: that some one’s sins have been forgiven or that an ex-cripple can now walk?

You can’t say “forgiveness of sins” since it’s invisible. So you must vote for the healed cripple.

Or do you?

That’s the question Jesus answers when we find him in Capernaum, circa .

Who Is the Cripple?

Seated on a mat inside a crowded house Jesus paused during his sermon to watch a dead man on a bier get lowered to the floor through a hole in the ceiling.

And this is what people came to see–a miracle. And indeed, that’s what they got. But in a way none imagined.

The man was not dead. Just lame from the neck down. Four men who peered through the roof possibly said as much.

Jesus told the man, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The Pharisees flinched, murmured. Jesus asked why they flinched and murmured.

He asked “Why do you think I blaspheme? Would it be easier for me to heal the man? Would that satisfy you?”

Why They Flinched and Murmured

The forgiveness of sins belongs to the realm of God alone. That was why the Pharisees balked at Jesus’ statement.

Jesus was claiming he could work as God worked.

Knowing that the act of forgiveness was an intangible one, Jesus shifted gears. He would demonstrate that he had the power to forgive sins because he possessed other God-like powers. Namely the gift of life.

He ordered the legs and arms of the cripple to warm with life. He spoke, and the cripple stood. By the word of God. The Son of God. The creator. The .

What You Do and Don’t See

The events unfold and all you see is a rabbi tell a lifetime cripple to pick up his pallet and walk home. All you see is a cripple climb to his feet, grab the pallet and walk out of the crowded house. All you see is a mob of people hollering, clapping and singing.

What you don’t see is the storehouse of sins emptied in an instant. Nor the dark clouds of war with God evaporate. Nor peace descend on the soul of a man once crippled by guilt and fear and worry.

All you see is an ex-cripple climb out of a house of people and walk–for the first time in his life–down a dusty street.

Where You Feel This

For you, like the ex-cripple, you simply believe what Jesus told you: That through his death your sins are forgiven. That through his death your entrance into heaven is cleared. That through his death you are now at peace with God.

You believe you are healed from the .

And you feel this in your spirit. And in that moment you commit to his will for your life. Forever.

**Part of The Messiah: Eleven Meditations from the Book of Mark series.** You can start reading a PDF version of  right now.

Children of Wrath [Our Condition Apart from the New Birth]

Part of the 10 Hard Truths about Being Born Againseries.


Not you. Not my wife. Not my father. Not my birth city. Nor my childhood friends.


That’s my main problem. Namely, my wicked heart.

My wicked heart that finds great pleasure in self-indulgence. That finds great pleasure in ignoring the pain of others. That finds great pleasure in emotionally torturing those close to me.

My wicked heart that’s hell bent on lying, cheating and stealing to get to the top. To write the best novel. To provoke people to like me. To love me. To praise me.

Didn’t know this about me, did you? Surprised? Guess what…it describes you, too. And unfortunately, because of this disposition to sin, you and I rest under the anger of God.

In :

Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

In other words, whether we’re prone to sensual or spiritual wickedness…all men and women…are naturally children of disobedience.

And  also…by nature…children of wrath. God’s wrath.

Not that we we’re born children of wrath. Rather, that we grow into this wickedness…

See, “nature” in the Greek . Yes, we’re born with a bent for evil. A love for evil. And we grow into that love… against the coming day of judgment.

In other words, we’re identified as children of wrath by our behavior. Our actions. Our deeds of disobedience.

We are sons of death. Sons of perdition. And the . Thus, if we died in that state…we’d be judged…and damned.

So you ask the question, “Why do I need to be born again?” My answer is this: You are a child of wrath. You are subject to God’s anger…and the punishment that cascades from it…because you refuse to obey him.

And all this just because you are YOU.

The good news of the New Testament is that  of God.  Jesus even “delivers us from the wrath to come.”

Apart from Christ you are dead. Enslaved to sin. And an object of God’s wrath. In Christ, however, you are alive. Enthroned. And an object of grace…

This is why , “You must be born again.”

Are you?

The Demoniac Proclamation of the Messiah


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Demon possession fascinates me. Perhaps that’s the reason I’m drawn to the story of the .

It’s not a healthy fascination. More likely it’s a weakness.

A bad sift in the broken human mind. Forever drawn to the smoking wreckage alongside the road.

Yet there’s something more potent in this story. That drives the heart of a Christian to it.

The Demon-Possessed Man

You have a man. In broken chains. Who lives among the tombs. Who roams about the mountains.

He shrieks, barks, growls. And gashes himself with stones. Strips saplings of bark. Sleeps under sycamores in pouring rain.

Women toting water jars steer clear. Children heading for the sea taunt and run. And young men tease, fists clenched tightly around driftwood.

All fear him. But Christ.

The Confrontation with Christ

When Jesus and his disciples climbed onto the shore, the demon-possessed man rushes them. He falls to the ground and rivets his eyes on Jesus and asks:

“What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore you by God, do not torment me!”

The man confesses he’s possessed by a legion of demons: “We are many.” Perhaps 4,000. Maybe even 6,000. A legion of Roman soldiers were known to be that large.

But maybe as low as 2,000, since that’s the number of pigs they eventually possess.

What can’t be missed, however, is the immeasurable power of the man–the demons.

Perhaps it rivals the cyclone Jesus just conquered. But in a supernatural sense.

The Real Fascination

Which brings us to the point of the narrative: Who is this that natural storms obey? That vast, supernatural armies cower beneath?

An unregenerate mind fixates on the demon. The suffering. The horror.

The regenerate mind, on the other hand, sees through to the real fascination: Jesus, the Son of God.

The one to whom all thrones, dominions, authorities and powers–whether natural or supernatural–bow down to.


And a Savior with teeth. One worthy of worship. Veneration. And adoration.

So, the question for you is…who do you obey: Your mind? The market? Or the Messiah?

**Part of The Messiah: Eleven Meditations from the Book of Mark series.** You can start reading a PDF version of  right now.

Discipleship: The Law of the Cross Prevails

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What does it mean to follow Christ?

Good question.

In , Jesus answers that question.

But it’s a tough answer. Challenging. Demanding. Unapologetic. Unflinching.

It’s NOT user-friendly. Nor seeker sensitive.

It won’t make you famous. Rich. Or powerful.

In fact, following Christ demands a willingness to make any sacrifice Jesus asks. Even the ultimate sacrifice.

And how you respond to Jesus’ answer will determine your place in the kingdom of God–in the fellowship of believers.

Discipleship: The High Cost

Just moments after Christ rebuked Peter, he summoned the crowd to gather around him and he began to teach.

, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up your cross and follow me.”

He taught self-denial. Desperation. Hopelessness in self. Hopelessness so deep that a person would hold nothing back.

Even his life.

No wonder Peter rejected Jesus’ statement that the Messiah must suffer and die. He rebuffed the notion because he didn’t want to die. Peter said “no thanks” to that brand of discipleship.

Jesus’ response? He told Peter that anyone who wishes to follow him must embrace the suffering that marked his own life.

And as disciples of Christ, we are called to embrace that same suffering. That same death. That’s the law of the cross. And it prevails.

Discipleship: What Is It?

A disciple is someone who follows a teacher and submits to his his instruction or training. Where ever there is a teacher and student…you have discipleship.

John the Baptist taught. Pharisees taught. I teach my children. Those we teach, train and instruct are our disciples.

And believers who confess Christ as Savior are disciples of Jesus. And because we are his disciples, we are called to embrace the same suffering and death Christ embraced.

The law of the cross prevails.

Discipleship: How Do We Endure?

God’s ultimate good never promises comfort or luxury. It promises hardship. Toil. Torture. Denial. Death.

Death to self. To autonomy. But in return, we are offered a majestic hope.

Christ set his sights on this hope. He set his sight beyond the pain. We’re called to do the same. To set our sights on that hope.

See, discipleship in persecution depends on seeing circumstances from God’s perspective…rather than in terms of human cost.

In the end, the hard truth of following Christ is that the cost is big. That is the law of the cross. But the rewards are infinite: abundant and eternal life that comes only from faithfully following Christ.

My advice to you: Embrace that brand of discipleship. :

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

**Part of The Messiah: Eleven Meditations from the Book of Mark series.**


The Scandal of Jesus in Nazareth


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In a small, isolated village perched on the limestone hills of the southern Lebanon mountain range, .

He taught in the synagogue. On a Sabbath day. Everything as it should be. Except for one thing…

How Jesus taught.

The people of Nazareth knew Jesus as a craftsman, a carpenter. A man who knew stone, brick and wood.  Who framed houses, windows and roofs.

They knew him as the son of Mary, brother of James, Joses, Judas, Simon and a handful of sisters–all long-time residents of Nazareth.

And they knew him as a rumored illegitimate child.

That’s why, in spite of his wisdom and performance of miracles, they could not swallow the fact that this ordinary, blue-collar man from Nazareth postured as God.

How dare he teach with such wisdom. How dare he exalt himself above them. And how dare he proclaim he was the Messiah.

Jesus’ response to this ferocious skepticism–his refusal to do miracles in Nazareth–is reminiscent of his teaching on :

He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

In other words, in the face of flagrant doubt, it’s pointless to perform miracles. We see this again in  when a group of Pharisees seek an astronomical sign and Jesus refuses.

What astonished Jesus about the unbelief he encountered in Nazareth was not his inability to do miracles. It was that for people who claimed to know him so well, they knew him so little.

And missing from this encounter in Nazareth is the astonishment over a conquered storm. The drop-dead serious confession of Jesus as Christ.

Abundant is the familiarity that creates contempt. That snubs authority. That rejects reality. But breeds the .

**Part of The Messiah: Eleven Meditations from the Book of Mark series.** You can start reading a PDF version of  right now.