The steep price of holiness and purity of heart

We must present our bodies as living sacrifices, sacrifices that are holy and acceptable to God through denying selfish impulses.

Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of holiness, and how God has outlined a refining process for every individual who is seeking holiness and purity of heart.

2 Timothy 2:22 – Flee from youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

As Timothy was a young leader within the Yeshua movement of Judaism, Paul was encouraging him to focus on being a positive example to the believers. His commitment to the Messiah would need to be evident in every aspect of his being so that people would sense his sincerity and pureness of heart, thereby spurring confidence in his teaching, and honor towards his Lord. This admonition comes amidst a discussion on faithful workers versus those who had been spreading falsehood among believers.

2 Timothy 2:16-18 – But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.

Paul was encouraging Timothy to stick to these basics of Kingdom living to ensure he would remain separated from falsehood. To pursue righteousness, Paul argues, one needed only to focus on faith, love and peace with all, especially those within the community of Messiah. This would breed righteous actions, indicating pureness of heart among the believers and all would be encouraged.

While this may come across as being too simplistic, it certainly was not an easy task for the early believers. Maintaining faith and pursuing righteousness in an environment of doctrinal oppression and brutal, physical persecution was a lifestyle of daily challenge. Demonstrating real love not only for the brethren but also those who were opposed to the gospel of the Kingdom was a monumental task. And pursuing peace with everyone who was essentially against the teachings of Yeshua required the deepest levels of reliance on the Spirit of God working within them to establish God’s Kingdom in that generation.

John 14:25-26 – “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

Yeshua had promised his disciples that the Spirit of God would bring to remembrance everything he had been teaching them, and in doing so, they would continually be taught how to interact with others. As God dwelt among his people, there was a unity that would stand as a testament to outsiders because the believers were operating within peace and love that God desires among his Kingdom people.

Acts 2:42-47 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

In another teaching context with the Roman congregation, the apostle Paul highlights the fact that righteousness, peace, joy, and encouragement in the Spirit were what would unify the believers and build up the Kingdom.

Romans 14:16-19 – Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever serves Messiah in this way is acceptable to God and receives human approval. So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.

Here we can see how Paul was essentially laying out the foundation of all interactions in the Kingdom which had already been evidenced by the early believers within their emerging community of faith. Paul says in Romans 14 that, “The kingdom of God is…righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit. Whoever serves Messiah in this way is acceptable to God and receives human approval.”

Now compare this definition to the example of the early believers described in Acts 2. Look at how those first believers were “conducting themselves in righteousness”:

  • They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching
  • to fellowship
  • to the breaking of bread (eating of common meals)
  • to prayer
  • all the believers were together and held all things in common
  • They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need

They also demonstrated “peace and joy”:

  • They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts

They were “acceptable to God and receiving human approval”:

  • praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

And the end result was:

  • Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved

So, how is it that this early group of Messiah believers could be so focused on the Kingdom and be such a bold and powerful witness to others? Is there a way that we can somehow mimic their faithfulness today so that we can also be a powerful witness to our own generation? In a moment, we will review a critical yet challenging teaching of Yeshua that can help us to do just that.

As we have seen so far, the early believers began operating within the dynamic parameters of peace and unity as they were taught by the holy Spirit through the apostles. As the Spirit brought to mind the teachings of Yeshua, the apostles were faithfully teaching and living out the principles for the believers to see and follow. And one of those principles of Yeshua is that he had said that those who were pure of heart and peacemakers would be blessed.

Matthew 5:8-9 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

Yeshua also illustrated with his own life the steep price that that his followers would have to pay in order to live out these principles in the process of following him.

Matthew 16:24 – Then Yeshua told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

So, now we get to the heart of the matter. Being set apart as pure of heart and a peacemaker involves a critical practice: denial of self. To deny oneself is to set oneself apart for some other, greater purpose. When we can get outside of ourselves and our personal, selfish impulses, it is then that we have the capacity to be filled with God’s Spirit so he can teach us how to become the pure and peaceful people he wants us to be. The characteristics Paul mentions in this passage to Timothy all involve our outward actions towards others based on an inward transformation: righteous actions involve denial of self; faith involves denial of self; love involves denial of self; peace involves denial of self. Therefore, we can conclude: the steep price of holiness or being set apart involves a continual outward focus on behalf of others.

But, since almost everything we encounter in this life and our current culture tells us the exact opposite (that we need to exert our rights, our privileges, our selfish impulses) we really need to evaluate ourselves in light of not only our personal walk, but in the context of our usefulness to the purposes of God.

Paul leveraged this concept of usefulness within the Kingdom by drawing an analogy to household articles.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 – Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

Based on Paul’s analogy here, there is a purging or cleansing of oneself from what is dishonorable that allows one to become set apart and more useful to God. The root meaning of the Greek word means” to cleanse by taking away; to thoroughly scour and clean out that which is impure.” This, according to Paul, is something that one must do for oneself. God is the one who makes our hearts new, but we as individuals must provide a clean working environment for that new heart to operate within. Believers have a responsibility to scour and clean out those things that offend God because of his holiness and presence in our lives, and in turn we become set apart as holy, ready for every good work towards others.

This whole chapter in 2 Timothy is sprinkled with admonitions to faithfully conduct this work of cleansing oneself (mentioned in verse 21) in every area of life. Paul instructs Timothy to have his hearers work at the sanctification in their lives in the following ways:

  • 14 – avoid wrangling over words
  • 16 – avoid profane chatter
  • 19 – let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness
  • 22 – shun youthful passions
  • 23 – have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies
  • 24 – the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome

On the positive side of the equation, purity of heart is demonstrated by the following:

  • 15 – doing your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him
  • 15 – rightly explain the word of truth
  • 21 – being ready for every good work
  • 22 – pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace
  • 24 – being kindly to everyone
  • 24 – being skillful in teaching
  • 24 – being patient
  • 25 – gently correcting opponents

All of these actions, whether avoiding that which is not beneficial or conducting those things which are, come at the steep price of denial of self. Remember what Yeshua said: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

The imagery conveyed here by Yeshua would have been a familiar one to his hearers, as they would have watched many crucifixions of capital offenders in their days. The offender would be forced to carry the very thing upon which he must die. I can think of no greater illustration of the life of the believer that conveys the necessity of continually bearing the instrument of death (denial of self) in the practice of doing what is right. Once we deny ourselves by avoiding that which is unhelpful, we then need to “pick up the cross” of doing what is right in place of those things. It is such a powerful metaphor for a very real and tangible discipline that should be touching every area of the believer’s life.

Paul calls this being a “living sacrifice;” a sacrificial offering that lives on and through the continual act of dying to self.

Romans 12:1-2 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is the same message he is urging Timothy to convey to his hearers: to present their bodies as living sacrifices, sacrifices that are holy and acceptable to God through denying their selfish impulses, not being conformed to the world. But they are also to be transformed through renewal, learning through the act of being tested what actions are good, acceptable and perfect according to his will.

Paul himself suffered intense persecution, and he knew it was a reality for believers who were separating from falsehood, but that they should remain steadfast in their faith.

2 Timothy 3:12-14 – Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Messiah Yeshua will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you remain in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.

Paul reminds Timothy to rely on the faithful teaching which he had received as the basis of all he would strive to impart to his hearers.

How like Timothy and those early believers we should strive to be! We must remain steadfast in the things we have learned, cleansing ourselves from every false way so that we may live righteous lives that honor God. By demonstrating righteousness through faith, love, and peace, we will also be honoring the memory and faithfulness of those early believers which they had suffered through their sacrificial examples and through intense persecution. But we will also be honoring the God who calls us to the same life of useful work in our generation. As his people continue to set themselves apart for his use, he is glorified in every age and his Kingdom has opportunity to grow as it continues to fill the earth.


If you enjoy these articles, 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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The actions and mindset of the Kingdom

A recognition of the Kingdom of God results in a lifestyle and emotional mindset guided by its principles.

A recognition of the Kingdom of God results in a lifestyle and emotional mindset guided by its principles.

Romans 14:17-18 – For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Messiah is acceptable to God and approved by men.

The apostle Paul uttered this statement in the midst of his instruction on not passing judgment on one another within the collective of believers, specifically in regard to food and drink. This was a divisive issue within that first-century generation due to practices of idol worship in the local marketplace and traditions that had been carried over from their Jewish upbringing of those who came to believe in Messiah.

But in this teaching, Paul is trying to stress how the real issues that should be the focus of their lifestyle was not arguing over traditions of men, but their focus should be on the righteousness, peace, and joy that they share through the Spirit of God in believing in Messiah.

Righteousness is a primary indicator of the kingdom because it means acting according to the principles that God affirms are “right.” These principles were to stem from his revealed will in his Word, not from the traditions of men that were based on appearances, or the influences of the idolatrous culture among which they lived.

  • Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Peace is an indicator of the kingdom because the gospel of the kingdom is about peace: peace that God provides through faith in Messiah, and peace between men that comes about when we die to ourselves and live for others. As God is a God of peace, peace should be evident in our lives as well.

  • Romans 14:19 – So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.
  • Romans 15:33 – May the God of peace be with all of you. Amen.

Joy is an indicator of the kingdom because there is a recognition that God has fulfilled his promises to his people. Those who are privileged to participate in the kingdom are relieved from the burden of their sinfulness and are empowered by God’s Spirit to serve him “acceptably, with reverence and awe.” Believers have hope that the world does not share, because their hope is in something larger and more permanent than anything in this world.

  • Hebrews 12:28 – Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe…
  • Romans 15:13 – Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Kingdom of God is intended to provide a balanced worldview which results in righteousness, peace, and joy because this is God’s desire for all people. The hope we share as believers in Messiah is that this kingdom will become evident throughout the world as we continue to faithfully and joyfully live by its principles.


If you enjoy these daily articles, 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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Trust that is rewarded

When we place our trust in him, God provides reassurances that provide peace and joy.

When we place our trust in him, God provides reassurances that provide peace and joy.

Psalm 119:125 – I am your servant; give me understanding so that I may know your decrees.

One of the challenging things about God’s Word is that it takes faith to understand it. People may resist committing to place their faith in God and in his Messiah because they don’t understand everything about God’s Word.

But the wisdom that comes from God is poured out only on those who are exhibiting faith in him. It’s as if God has provided enough information to bring us to himself, and yet he reserves the deeper understanding for those whom he knows are truly committed to him: his servants.

Yeshua taught a similar concept when the religious leaders refused to believe his teachings. They had assumed because he was a simple, unlearned man he could not be sharing the truth of the one true God. Yet, Yeshua challenged them with committing to accomplish the will of God, and his teaching would then become self-evident. That’s almost like a money-back guarantee in today’s marketing terminology.

John 7:15-17 – Then the Jews were amazed and said, “How is this man so learned, since he hasn’t been trained? ” Yeshua answered them, “My teaching isn’t mine but is from the one who sent me. If anyone wants to do his will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own.”

It’s as if God wants to make sure that we are serious about following him before providing us the ability to connect all the dots. The apostle Paul compared this to the contrast between a natural man and a spiritual man:

1 Corinthians 2:12-14 – “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”

But once someone places their faith in God, he verifies for them the truth of his Word and his purposes. Through the eyes of his Spirit, the challenges to understanding his Word begin to melt away, and we can become more confident in our assertions as we continue to learn and study more about who he is, and how he has chosen to communicate with his creatures and operate within his Creation.

Psalm 119:140 – Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.

As his servants, we come to realize how intertwined his influence is in all things, and we can rest assured that he has proven himself faithful time and time again. This is the joy that comes from faith in the God of the Bible and his Messiah.

Romans 15:13 – Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit.


If you enjoy these daily articles, 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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com

Continual confession is best for the soul

We need to respond to the prodding of God within our hearts.

Psalm 32:1-2 – How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How joyful is a person whom Yahweh does not charge with iniquity and in whose spirit is no deceit!

This psalm carries an important message that may be lost upon us in our current day and age. As believers in Messiah, we may freely (and maybe a bit too freely) acknowledge that we recognize the blessedness of one whose sins are forgiven. However, in our ongoing walk of faith we many times tend to overlook an important step that was responsible for bringing us to this point in the first place: confession.

Psalm 32:3-4 – When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat.

An unconfessed life is one that can feel like a burden, where issues arise that continually assault our sensibilities and make us feel as if we have no bearing or foundation. The psalmist here uses the language of God’s hand being “heavy” on him, to where his strength evaporates. It’s as if no matter what we try to do, the wrong results come of all of our actions. Everything we intend for good ends up going sideways.

Psalm 32:5 – Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

The turnaround (literally) comes when we become honest about our rebellious hearts toward God. When we finally reach a point where the struggle has become so exhausting that we simply cannot go on under the burden of resisting God’s prodding within our hearts.

When it comes to confession, we tend to think that when we initially came to Messiah, we acknowledged our sinful lives and confessed our wayward actions before him. But God’s word encourages us to not only confess our sin when coming to him, but on a regular basis as part of an ongoing, healthy and sin-free relationship.

The apostle John writes:

1 John 1:6 – If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.

The psalm says that the person who is truly joyful is the one whom not only is forgiven, but “in whose spirit is no deceit.” How many multitudes of believers have fallen into the trap of false security because of an initial repentance when coming to the faith, and yet stumble in their walk because of ongoing unconfessed sin before God? John says when we do that, we are walking in darkness, not in the light; “we are lying, and not practicing the truth.”

Psalm 32:6 – Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to you immediately. When great floodwaters come, they will not reach him.

We should pray to him immediately and constantly when we slip. The longer wrong actions and wrong intentions remain, the further “under his hand” we place ourselves. We begin to drown in the floodwaters that inevitably surround us.

Psalm 32:7 – You are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.

Instead, a life of constant repentance is one that is without sin, not because sin never occurs, but because it is constantly being purged in the ongoing vital relationship between the individual and their Creator. Then, deliverance, joy, and light become the living environment of the faithful confessor.

1 John 1:7-9 – If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

To live cleansed from all unrighteousness is to acknowledge before God our faults when they occur, as they occur. In this way, we can walk in unburdened fellowship with other believers, and in a living and vital lifestyle of obedience before God.

While confession may be good for the soul, ongoing confession is even better.


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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.