Caring for those who are distressed and scattered

God’s people are a precious possession to him.

Matthew 9:35-38 – Yeshua continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and helplessly dispersed, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. “Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”

The compassion of Yeshua for the condition of his people is a burden that still lays upon the hearts of those who are his followers today. Everywhere one looks today, people who are sincerely trying to follow God’s ways are distressed and scattered among the masses of false teachings, like sheep among so many wolves.

The compassionate heart seeks to encourage and build one another up in the the common things of the faith once for all delivered to God’s holy ones, not to tear down the feeble faith that they may have. In Matthew’s gospel, quoting the prophet Isaiah, it is said of Yeshua:

Matthew 12:20 – He will not break a bruised reed, and he will not put out a smoldering wick, until he has led justice to victory.

Yeshua did not desire to further damage the bruised reeds nor snuff out a wick that was at least smoldering with the remnants of faith. His care and concern for the lost was evident in his tireless teaching and healings throughout the crowds of people.

Matthew 15:29-32 – …Yeshua passed along the Sea of Galilee. He went up on a mountain and sat there, and large crowds came to him, including the lame, the blind, the crippled, those unable to speak, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he healed them. So the crowd was amazed when they saw those unable to speak talking, the crippled restored, the lame walking, and the blind seeing, and they gave glory to the God of Israel. Jesus called his disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, otherwise they might collapse on the way.”

Yeshua demonstrated compassion on the people because of their lost condition. Those who cannot help themselves deserve our compassion, as well.

However, those who should know better, the leaders of the people, are the ones whom Yeshua confronted.

Matthew 23:13 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.

In this extended passage in Matthew 23, Yeshua delivers a scathing denunciation of the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. In this way, he demonstrated that the recipients of doctrinal debate are deserved to be those false shepherds who are continuing to deceive and lead astray, but not the flock members themselves.

When encountering individuals who may be sincere but are not fully conveying the truth of the Way of God, we should privately encourage them and gently offer correction, as Priscilla and Aquila demonstrated with Apollos.

Acts 18:24-26 – Now a Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was competent in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Jesus, although he knew only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.

Following the example of Yeshua, we should demonstrate compassion by praying to the Lord of the harvest for the safety and care of his people, that they would have their eyes opened and come out from under the overbearing error of hypocritical and false teaching. We should likewise reach out by offering assistance where we can to meet the needs of those who are unable to help themselves in those situations. God’s people are a precious possession to him, and we should show the same respect and care for them as he does.


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The practice of vigilance in exposing falsehood

There are real distinctions between biblical truth and error.

Acts 20:30-31 – Men will rise up even from your own number and distort the truth to lure the disciples into following them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I never stopped warning each one of you with tears.

As Paul was preparing to leave the Ephesian congregation, he gave an eloquent speech specifically to the leaders of the group, that they would remain as faithful overseers of the believers. He tasked them with remaining on the alert for false teachers, those who would distort the truth and gain followers who would abandon the Way for some other substitute.

His admonition to the leadership in Ephesus is one that we should heed today. There are scores of individuals and groups that promote falsehoods regarding the Bible, which is why the the Way of truth is so badly maligned and misunderstood in this generation.

1 Timothy 1:18-19 – Timothy, my son, I am giving you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies previously made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the good fight, having faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and have shipwrecked their faith.

Paul cautioned his protégé Timothy that retention of faith and a good conscience is a primary method of avoiding falsehood. Our consciences should never be jeopardized or silenced in the pursuit of godly living.

2 Timothy 2:16-19 – Avoid irreverent and empty speech, since those who engage in it will produce even more godlessness, and their teaching will spread like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are among them. They have departed from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and are ruining the faith of some. Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, bearing this inscription: The Lord knows those who are his, and let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness.

Paul spares no words in calling out, by name, those who were representing falsehoods. The reason is that irreverent and empty speech, he says, spreads like gangrene and ruins the faith of those who are sincere. This type of false teaching can lead to wickedness and godlessness, the very things we are taught to turn away from.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 – For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.

This famous passage illustrates how false teaching can be identified by how it attempts to satisfy our own desires and cravings. Those who only listen to what they want to hear cannot have a full understanding of the truth of God which, many times, challenges and confronts us with our own wrong behaviors and attitudes.

Myths, like the Mormon stories of Jesus among the South Americans, or the Catholic concept of the Virgin Mary being sinless and also ascending to heaven, generate unnecessary complications over the truth and simplicity of the biblical narrative.

The apostle Peter, in like fashion to Paul, brazenly calls out the false prophets that were already evident among the congregations.

2 Peter 2:1-3 – There were indeed false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved ways, and the way of truth will be maligned because of them. They will exploit you in their greed with made-up stories. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.

He mentions their ways were depraved, and how they were exploiting people with made-up stories for the sake of their own greed. A large number of “televangelists” such as Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, Creflo Dollar, and Robert Schuller could easily fall under that banner. Hal Lindsey falsely predicted a rapture in 1981 with the end of the world in 1988. Harold Camping had a large conservative following and also famously and falsely predicted the end of the world in 1994 and then again in 2011. These types of slick, popularized leaders and failed prophets are the primary reasons that believers today are lumped together and characterized as blind followers of charlatans.

Being vigilant in our faith means that we have to exercise godly discernment in what we are accepting as biblical teaching. The Bible is not meant to be a means of gaining superficial wealth or to be used as some sort of magic incantation, saying the appropriate phrases in the correct language of an approved version to get what we want. It is not some sort of self-help manual to help us overcome our inadequacies. We need to be aware of group-think when the results go against basic reason and conscience.

We should, however, follow the instruction of Paul to the Thessalonians in “testing everything, and only holding to that which is good,” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We live in an age and culture (in America) in which the Word of God is readily available and accessible to just about everyone. If we are serious enough to only read it thoroughly and constantly, we would be able to identify falsehoods much more readily. And if we pray sincerely for understanding and wisdom, God is faithful to provide our every need.

Proverbs 9:10 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
James 1:5 – Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God ​– ​who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly ​– ​and it will be given to him.

But being vigilant is harder than just waving our hand and dismissing these blatant types of exploitation as just “people believing whatever they want to believe.” While people in our culture certainly have that freedom and right, we also should recognize that if there is truth in the Bible, then there are distinctions between falsehoods and truth. If individuals and groups are misrepresenting God, it is up to us to ensure that his name is not defamed due to the perverse actions of popular figures.

The example of Yeshua sets the stage for confronting the hypocrisy of the religious establishment.

Matthew 23:33 – “Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to the judgment of Gehenna?

Almost the entire chapter of Matthew 23 contains Yeshua’s tirade against the inconsistencies and selfish exploitation used by the scribes and Pharisees of his day. If we consider ourselves his followers and we are serious about the truth, then the biblical falsehoods, and those promoting them, need to be exposed for what they are.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The balance of practicing cautious compassion

We are encouraged by Jude to initially show mercy to those who may oppose the message of the kingdom.

Show mercy to those who have doubts. Save others by snatching them from the fire. Show mercy to others, even though you are afraid that you might be stained by their sinful lives.

Jude 1:22-23

The admonitions of Jude revolve around contending for “the faith which once and for all God has given to his people.” The reason this had become necessary was due to the growth of the believers’ assemblies and the mixing in of others who were not true believers.

For some godless people have slipped in unnoticed among us, persons who distort the message about the grace of our God in order to excuse their immoral ways, and who reject Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.

Jude 1:4

According to Jude, the baseline for belonging within the believers’ assembly is accepting Yeshua as Lord and Master; i.e., recognizing his unique role as the leader of God’s kingdom on earth, and abiding by his teachings. He recognized that individuals who did not hold those basic tenets had begun to infiltrate their assemblies.

  • v. 8 “[they] have visions which make them sin against their own bodies; they despise God’s authority and insult the glorious beings above.”
  • v. 10 “these people attack with insults anything they do not understand; and those things that they know by instinct, like wild animals, are the very things that destroy them.”
  • v. 16 “These people are always grumbling and blaming others; they follow their own evil desires; they brag about themselves and flatter others in order to get their own way.”
  • v. 19 “These are the people who cause divisions, who are controlled by their natural desires, who do not have the Spirit.”

How the assemblies of that day had come to admit such individuals, especially in such an apparent widespread manner, is the topic of another study on vigilance. However, the admonition of Jude is to remain cautiously compassionate, even with these types of individuals. He encourages the true believers to “show mercy” to such as these, and any who might be seduced by their selfish doctrines.

This is reminiscent of Paul’s admonition to Timothy

The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but be gentle towards all, able to teach, patient, in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth…

2 Timothy 2:24-25

The caution principle comes in as Yeshua instructs us there is a point where we should recognize that some individuals will unfortunately remain resistant to the truth and possibly become harmful to us as individuals and to the kingdom objectives.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Matthew 7:6

Paul also cautions Titus:

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

Titus 3:10-11

However, our initial response to those who oppose the message of the kingdom is to remain cautiously compassionate, to reach out and offer to assist and answer concerns, because through these gentle initial overtures, many may have had their eyes opened to their own sinful ways and have been encouraged to repent and truly follow the Messiah.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Know Your Teachers

We must carefully pick and choose the sources of our teaching to ensure we are remaining on the narrow path laid out for us.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

Matthew 7:15-20

Beware of deceitful religious impostors. You will recognize them for what they truly are by looking closely at the results of their words and actions.

Vigilance involves being on guard against all manner of deception to avoid following a false way. In this current day and age, we have become inundated with information overload; we must carefully pick and choose the sources of our teaching to ensure we are remaining on the narrow path laid out for us.

This admonition was of utmost importance to his first-century flock, as the nation was full of those who would try to gain a hearing, and a living, from the ignorant and willing among them.

Mark 13:22 – For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
Luke 6:26 – “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

The apostle Peter had no shortage of words for these deceivers:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

2 Peter 2:1-3

Yeshua provides a touch-stone, a type of verification of identity, of false teaching and those who promote it: “You will recognize them by their fruits.” Peter vividly expanded on describing some of those fruits as secrecy, denying Yeshua as Messiah, sensuality, blasphemy, greed, false words.

What are the fruits of those who would seek to gain audience with you today? Are they constantly asking for money to assist in their “ministry”? Are they promising a secret message “just for you” or for only a limited few? Is Yeshua not central to their doctrine? Are they promoting any type of sensuality as acceptable (trappings of wealth, or men or women as objects of desire, “spiritual” music and worship designed to “bring you into God’s presence”)?

Yeshua declares their end as being “cut down and thrown into the fire.” While they may look good on the surface, they will not survive their worldly aspirations designed only to better themselves.

Be vigilant, and get to know your sources of teaching.