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 Kingdom law of restitution and generosity

A heart of covetousness can lead to a theft of the generosity he desires us to extend to others on his behalf.

Today we will be looking at the topic of the Kingdom of God. Within God’s Kingdom, the law of God provides the guide for all behaviors that God expects of his people. One of the primary boundaries of God’s law concerns security of individual belongings where stealing is prohibited. Interestingly, God’s solution for discouraging theft is its exact opposite: a type of forced generosity. Those who violate the law must give abundantly or they must give themselves.

The commandment as it was stated by God from Sinai in Exodus 20:15 is simple and direct: “You shall not steal.” As we look at this topic today, I feel I need to restate the perspective I have of the Ten Commandments. Far from being done away, the Ten Commandments form what I consider to be the founding charter of the Kingdom of God. These are the basic yet comprehensive rules that God has established for those participating in his Kingdom for all time.

This Kingdom pattern was exemplified by the ancient Israelites being removed abruptly from the nation of their residence into the wilderness of a harsh desert environment. In this new environment, they required rules to function as a society. Certainly, since this was an act of God drawing a people to himself, these rules would need to set them apart from all other nations with higher standards than their counterparts. This new nation was designed to be a godly society founded on godly principles.

Within this new society, theft was expressly declared as forbidden. When theft is tolerated, then societal security begins to degrade and personal property can be violated at any time. Looked at from this perspective, the right to private and personal ownership is sort of “baked in” to the Kingdom of God. By definition, theft is the taking of something that belongs to someone else. Therefore, if stealing is wrong then there is an underlying premise that God respects his people owning things, whether animals for farming, houses for living in, or fields for growing food. Private ownership is necessary for the stability and growth of the community because people who own things produce a need for those things to be produced and maintained. This feedback loop then generates an economic engine of production and service capable of growing active, vital communities. Theft interrupts that cycle and creates a deficit of trust and security within a community requiring some sort of accountability for those who don’t respect the rights of others.

Within the entire Biblical narrative, theft is never looked upon as a positive characteristic. To be a thief is to knowingly take something from someone else, usually associated with violent acts or even murder.

Proverbs 1:10-11, 13-16 – My son, if sinners entice you, don’t be persuaded.  If they say ​– ​”Come with us! Let’s set an ambush and kill someone. Let’s attack some innocent person just for fun!  … “We’ll find all kinds of valuable property and fill our houses with plunder.  “Throw in your lot with us, and we’ll all share the loot” —  my son, don’t travel that road with them or set foot on their path,  because their feet run toward evil and they hurry to shed blood.

Proverbs 28:24 – Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, “What’s wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.

The thief upsets the system of civilized conduct because they feel that the same rules that govern others do not apply to them. Whatever their justification is for taking something that belongs to someone else is to consider their reason more important than obeying the command to not steal and the rights of others to enjoy their own possessions. Theft is dangerous because it mocks the integrity of civil order in any society, and must be punished in order to maintain the economic integrity and security of the community.

However, interestingly, the torah or instruction of God reveals that theft is not punishable by death. Instead, a thief must face a fate that very well could be worse than death for them: they must pay restitution.

  • Exodus 22:1 – “When a man steals an ox or a sheep and butchers it or sells it, he must repay five cattle for the ox or four sheep for the sheep.
  • Exodus 22:7 – “When a man gives his neighbor valuables or goods to keep, but they are stolen from that person’s house, the thief, if caught, must repay double.
  • Exodus 22:3 – “… A thief must make full restitution. If he is unable, he is to be sold because of his theft.

At a minimum, they were to pay double what they stole (if the goods are recovered). But if what had been stolen had been sold or, in the case of a stolen animal, killed, then they were to pay up to four or five times the amount. If they were unable to pay, then they were to be sold into forced servitude to pay off the debt.

So it turns out that God’s solution for discouraging theft is its exact opposite: a type of forced generosity. They were to give abundantly out of their own possessions, or they were to be forced to give of themselves through servitude.

With the principles regarding theft clearly outlined in God’s law, it makes sense that those principles would also carry over into God’s spiritual Kingdom. However, not stealing and respecting the rights of others is only half of the equation that God wants us to practice. While the letter of the law required forced giving for those making restitution, the spirit of the law encourages us to be voluntarily giving from the heart at all times.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 – The point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart ​– ​not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.

So, with this foundational understanding of property rights and appropriate behavior of his people, God, through Yeshua, has the ability to take this principle to the next level, and he does so through teachings regarding giving.

Yeshua taught that he did not come to abolish the law; in fact he upheld it at all times and fulfilled it in all he said and did. He was known for repeating the commands, including the law against stealing.

  • Matthew 19: 18 – Yeshua said, “Never murder. Never commit adultery. Never steal. Never give false testimony. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 
  • Mark 10:19 “You know the commandments: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother.”
  • Luke 18:20 “You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and mother.”

Yeshua also taught that not only should believers not steal, they should be generous.

  • Matthew 5:42 – “Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
  • Matthew 10:8 – Freely you received, freely give.
  • Luke 6:38 – Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

On the one hand, Yeshua upholds the law, yet on the other, he elevates it. For example, he takes the command against adultery and elevates it to the avoidance of even thinking promiscuously. He takes the command against murder and elevates it to the avoidance of even being angry. In a similar sense, to address the issue of covetousness in the life of a wealthy young inquirer, Yeshua also mentions a similar “restitution of generosity” for covetousness, which makes sense, since extreme coveting can also lead to theft.

Matthew 19: 18-22 – Yeshua said, “Never murder. Never commit adultery. Never steal. Never give false testimony. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” The young man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments. What else do I need to do?” Yeshua said to him, “If you want to be perfect, sell what you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then follow me!” When the young man heard this, he went away sad because he owned a lot of property.

In this sad instance of the man who was not willing to pay the price of following Yeshua, we see a bit of ourselves. How have we coveted the things of this world and the luxuries we have attained to where they keep us from exhibiting the generosity we should be providing to others? A heart of covetousness actually leads to a kind of stealing from God, a theft of the generosity he desires us to extend to others on his behalf.  According to Yeshua, this is the perfection that God seeks: not just not stealing, but giving and following his Messiah.

The spiritual Kingdom of God cannot be guided merely by restrictions against natural bad behaviors through the letter of the law only. If that were the case, the Kingdom would be made up of those who are really good at not doing anything wrong, but who also never do anything good for others. No, for the Kingdom to be eternal and growing to fill the earth as prophesied, it has to also produce the positive influence of God’s spirit and desire in the hearts of those who belong to him. This is how it can be a lasting influence in the world for all time.

In a similar way to the teaching of Yeshua, the apostle Paul taught that the solution for breaking any of the commandments, including stealing, was to demonstrate love to others.

Romans 13:9 – The commandments, Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up by this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Paul also taught that those who practiced stealing should earn an honest living, not just for their own benefit, but so that they would have an opportunity to bless others with what they earn.

Ephesians 4:28 – Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.

Finally, let’s review one of the most dramatic examples of these principles in the life of Zacchaeus. He had become enthralled with the notoriety of the Messiah, and when Yeshua singled him out to be a host for him and his group, Zacchaeus was ecstatic with the recognition. While we don’t have the details of the entire process of his acceptance of Messiah, Yeshua made it clear that his renewed heart was genuine and he was no longer lost.

Luke 19:8-10 – But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much.” “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

In recognizing the immeasurable grace and mercy of God’s salvation, Zacchaeus, in both the letter and spirit of the law, offers not only to pay back those whom he had extorted four times over as required in the law, but also to go above and beyond by giving away half of everything he had on behalf of the poor. By his actions, he demonstrated his heart of covetousness had been fully changed, and he was a new creation through faith in the Messiah.

Therefore, in keeping with the torah or instruction of God within his Kingdom, and as a follower of Yeshua, we should never secretly take anything that does not belong to us. Instead, we should always be willing to give generously of all resources that have been entrusted to us. And because the life he has given us is a debt we can never repay, the remainder of our existence should become an offering of voluntary servitude to the one who has provided us this immeasurable gift of life.


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.

Vigilantly seeking the things that are above

We should be finding ways to enact heavenly principles in the here and now.

Core of the Bible podcast #88 – Vigilantly seeking the things that are above

Today we will be looking at the topic of vigilance. When we vigilantly “seek the things that are above,” we are not only looking forward to a heavenly eternity, but we should be finding ways to enact heavenly principles in the here and now, incorporating our new, spiritual kingdom life into the life we are living now.

The apostle Paul stated it this way:

Colossians 3:1-3 – If then you were raised together with Messiah, seek the things that are above, where Messiah is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Messiah in God.

It seems that Paul was basing this concept of seeking the things that are above on the principles that Yeshua had taught. Yeshua taught that we should always keep asking, knocking, and seeking in order to receive, to have doors opened, and to find what it is we’re searching for.

Matthew 7:7-8 – “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

According to Yeshua, this type of vigilance is rewarded with the objectives sought for. If we are consistently asking and seeking and knocking, then we will definitively obtain those things which we seek.

Paul carries this same theme of seeking and searching forward into a mindset that should continually guide us in our ongoing new life in Messiah. This seeking involves ongoing aspects of vigilance that are wrapped up in the definition of the original wording used in the text. The phrase he uses in the Colossians 3 passage means to seek in order to find a thing; to seek in order to find out by thinking, meditating, reasoning, to enquire into; to seek after, seek for, aim at, strive after; to require, demand; to crave. These types of urgent and continual qualities of vigilance carry the same intent of Yeshua’s exhortation to keep seeking until the objective is found.

Whenever I explore this passage, I am reminded of a quote by G.K. Chesterton which reads, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” To seek first the kingdom is not just a weekend activity, or one which can be pursued by sharing “amens” on Facebook, or by reading and listening to everything that the current Christian subculture puts out (everything that is, except the Bible). No, asking, seeking, and knocking is a mindset; a consistent, methodical and undeviating value to be exercised at every opportunity where God’s will has yet to be expressed.

In like fashion, Paul uses the same wording to emphasize the believer’s desperate motivation to know God and his Messiah, to learn more about the things of God and to keep one’s focus there through the trials of life. This is what he prayed about for those early believers.

Ephesians 3:17-19 – I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Philippians 3:10-11, 13-15 – …that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. …  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Messiah Yeshua. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

Can we truly say with Paul that we are “straining forward to what lies ahead…pressing on toward the goal”? This type of imagery conveys effort, discipline, and sacrifice to attain God’s purposes in this life. How we answer that question will typically uncover our progression of growth and our impact among those of our generation for him. In a moment, we will review this idea of sacrifice during this life, and how Paul expressed the concept of a sacrificial life that is lived for the Messiah.

Living a sacrificial life for God is going to be something that is different for every believer because we are all at different places in our walk with him. To Paul, placing one’s faith in the Messiah was, in no uncertain terms, a matter of life and death: death to self and traditions of men, and new life as a new self that seeks after the things of God.

Romans 8:13 – For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Colossians 3:5 – Therefore, put to death whatever is worldly in you: your sexual sin, perversion, passion, lust, and greed (which is the same thing as worshiping wealth).

This putting to death of our worldly passions and desires was considered to be an ongoing practice, one to where the believer becomes the dichotomous “living sacrifice;” that which is constantly being offered up to God, yet continually alive, as well.

Romans 12:1-2 – Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

This renewal of mind comes as we vigilantly “seek the things that are above,” not only looking forward to a heavenly eternity, but finding ways to enact heavenly principles in the here and now, incorporating our new spiritual life into the physical life we are living now. In this way, we end up “putting to death” our selfish desires and we rise to the new life of our new self, created to be like him.

When Yeshua came into this world, it was as a human baby miraculously conceived in the womb of his mother. The spiritual element of his life was present from his birth, and this was brought to fruition at his resurrection from death. In this imagery is contained the following principle: the temporary mortal aspect, the flesh, has to die before the new creation, the spiritual reality, can be fulfilled. This is why Paul instructed the early believers to recognize that they were no longer to be focused on the fleshly aspect of anything, including Messiah.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 – From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Messiah according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Paul used the example and symbolism of Messiah’s resurrection beyond the flesh and applied it to the present life of those who believed in Messiah. He was encouraging them to operate from this mindset, because it was a reality in their lives that just had not come to pass yet; it was to be realized in the fulness of time at their passing from this life into the eternal kingdom of God.

2 Corinthians 5:1-4 – For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Life, in this sense, is eternal life: a status not only of unending existence beyond this temporary one, but a certain quality of life that is being generated within us day by day. When we are truly and whole-heartedly pursuing the things of God each day, we are becoming more and more of what God wants us to be as his representatives on this earth, and in anticipation of the life that is truly life beyond this mortal existence.

Colossians 3:9-10 – Do not speak falsehoods to one another, for you have stripped off the old self with its doings, and have clothed yourselves with the new self which is being remoulded into full knowledge so as to become like Him who created it.

2 Corinthians 4:16 – …even though our outward man is wasting away, yet our inward man is being renewed day by day.

I like how the Weymouth NT here phrased Colossians 3:10 as “the new self which is being remoulded into full knowledge…” The word that the apostle Paul uses here appears to be unique to him and only appears in these two verses: Colossians 3:10 and 2 Corinthians 4:16. It conveys the idea of renewal or renovation; something that is an ongoing process in the life of the believer. Saying that believers need to be remolded into full knowledge captures a vivid image: we need to have our substance crafted into something new in order to become useful to God. And the verse also tells us that the goal is “to become like Him who created it.” This is image-of-God language that is foundational to the theology of the kingdom. When we seek first the kingdom; when we pursue it by striving after it and craving it, reasoning through it and enquiring into it on a daily basis, it changes and transforms us. We become reshaped, remolded, and renewed in essence of being, causing us to become like our Father.

The apostle Peter phrased it in these types of terms:

1 Peter 4:1-2 – Therefore, since Messiah suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same understanding ​– ​because the one who suffers in the flesh is finished with sin ​– ​ in order to live the remaining time in the flesh no longer for human desires, but for God’s will.

Each of us only has a certain remaining time here to accomplish what God desires, and we don’t know when that eventuality will occur. If we are being led of God’s Spirit to grow in him, being molded into his image more and more each day, we should work diligently to be sure that God is receiving the benefit of his investment in us by our faithful and obedient representation of him. This is how we incorporate our new, spiritual kingdom life into the life we are living now, and how his will is accomplished in each generation.


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.

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.

Consistently seeking the kingdom of God

In order to receive the benefit of God’s instruction, we must become saturated with it.

In order to receive the benefit of God’s instruction, we must become saturated with it.

Psalm 1:1-3 – How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Yahweh’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

I love the brevity and directness of these few verses. In them, we learn that happiness for the believer is derived from the avoidance of certain practices and the diligent pursuit of something else. They also convey the results that can be expected when this advice is followed.

As believers we are to avoid:

  • walking in the advice of the wicked
  • standing in the pathway with sinners
  • sitting in the company of mockers

For each one of us, this may take different forms, whether it is our interactions with our work and social groups, or the company we keep online with friends and acquaintances. These typical behaviors, while popular choices in the current culture, are not fruitful at all for the believer.

Instead, we are to diligently pursue Yahweh’s instruction or torah, and meditate on it day and night. This should be the consistent focus of our daily lifestyle. If we do so, we can expect the following results:

  • We will be like a tree planted beside flowing streams (constantly nourished)
  • bearing its fruit in its season (being productive within the kingdom of God)
  • and whose leaf does not wither (remaining vibrant)
  • Whatever we do will prosper (based on the right knowledge of following God’s word)

According to the text, there is no downside for the believer to be thoroughly engaged with God’s word on a daily basis. All of these results are benefits not only for ourselves, but also for that of others who may be seeking to understand more about the God of the Bible. To bear fruit is to provide practical guidance and assistance to others who can be helped by our positive influence in their lives.

While there are many examples throughout the Bible, in Psalm 119 is most completely conveyed the attitude of someone who is desirous of God’s instruction, seeking whole-heartedly to follow his ways.

  • Psalm 119:14-16 – I rejoice in the way revealed by your decrees as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and think about your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
  • Psalm 119:43-48 – Never take the word of truth from my mouth, for I hope in your judgments. I will always obey your instruction, forever and ever. I will walk freely in an open place because I study your precepts. I will speak of your decrees before kings and not be ashamed. I delight in your commands, which I love. I will lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and will meditate on your statutes.
  • Psalm 119:97 – How I love your instruction [torah]! It is my meditation all day long.

Yeshua spoke about it this way:

Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”

Meditating on God’s word involves reflection and musing over its meanings and implications providing insights into righteous ways. It involves study, but also a deep and intimate devotion, resulting in prayer and communion with God. It is not just about setting aside fifteen or thirty minutes or an hour a day, but about having a constant baseline of relying on the principles of God’s word throughout the day. In between and underneath our necessary functions as members of our society, we should always default to a godly perspective that can help guide our decisions and actions. The promise is that if we intentionally keep this mental focus, we will prosperous and fruitful for God, which ultimately honors him. And isn’t that the type of believer we should be?


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.

The authority of the eternal kingdom

Messiah purchased a people and delivered an eternal kingdom to his Father, the God of the universe.

Messiah purchased a people and delivered an eternal kingdom to his Father, the God of the universe.

I believe one of the reasons the gospel of the kingdom is so misunderstood today is because people fail to see that the kingdom is all about authority. If there is a kingdom, there is a king, and if there is a king, then that king has authority. So to admit that there is a kingdom of God is to admit that God has authority to rule and reign over all kingdoms.

I have mentioned before that most people who consider themselves believers in the Bible would likely view this eventuality of God ruling all nations as a future event. However, I am in a minority of those who consider this to be a current fact, a fact that will remain so for all time and eternity.

In the absolute sense, he is God, after all, and therefore has in a primary sense always ruled all of his Creation. However, in a specific sense, God had, through ancient Israel, prepared a people who would become his representatives and light of instruction to the rest of the world. There was a point in time when he began an earthly kingdom through Moses and David up to the time of Messiah. It was then that another aspect of the kingdom, a spiritual one, was to be enacted to fulfill the earthly model, and then to remain into eternity.

Yeshua repeatedly urged the people to be repentant of their own ways because of the nearness of the impending spiritual kingdom of God, and how it was to be earnestly sought after even in those days.

  • Matthew 4:17 – From then on Yeshua began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
  • Matthew 5:10 – “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
  • Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

As the fulfillment of all of Israel’s hopes and prophecies, Yeshua stood as the promised seed of Abraham who was the true King of Israel, faithfully representing God the Father in all his ways.

  • John 12:50 – “… So the things that I speak, I speak just as the Father has told me.”
  • Galatians 3:16 – Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ.
  • John 1:49 – “Rabbi,” Nathanael replied, “You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel! “
  • John 12:12-13 – The next day, when the large crowd that had come to the festival heard that Yeshua was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him. They kept shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of Yahweh ​– ​the King of Israel! “

Yeshua ruled and reigned as the true king as God’s Son, inaugurated in his resurrection to the right hand of the Father.

Acts 13:32-34 – “And we ourselves proclaim to you the good news of the promise that was made to our ancestors. God has fulfilled this for us, their children, by raising up Yeshua, as it is written in the second Psalm: You are my Son; today I have become your Father. As to his raising him from the dead, never to return to decay, he has spoken in this way, I will give you the holy and sure promises of David.

This was the fulfillment of Psalm 110, one of the most repeated prophetic statements applied to Messiah in all of the New Testament.

Psalm 110:1 – This is the declaration of Yahweh to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Messiah had to reign at God’s right hand until his enemies, the unfaithful Jewish leaders and apostate Jews who had fallen from their own God-given belief system, were dealt with. This occurred at the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, when Jerusalem and the physical temple system was destroyed, never to be rebuilt. It was then, having achieved the victory over his enemies, that Yeshua handed the kingdom back over to the Father, as had been prophesied.

1 Corinthians 15:24-28 – Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he abolishes all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he puts all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be abolished is death. For God has put everything under his feet. Now when it says “everything” is put under him, it is obvious that he who puts everything under him is the exception. When everything is subject to Christ, then the Son himself will also be subject to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.

Since his enemies have been destroyed, the kingdom has reverted to God the Father. As the passage above from Paul relates, the last enemy that was to be abolished was death. This was evidenced through the destruction of his enemies. This is the good news of the kingdom! Death has been abolished! For believers, there is no cessation of existence at physical death! This was the great message of faith in Messiah.

John 11:25-26 – Yeshua said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. “Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? “

The authority of God has been firmly established for all eternity by his Messiah accomplishing all that the Father sent him to do. God now rules and reigns over all nations, illustrated by the idealized city of Zion, the New Jerusalem, reigning over all the kings of the earth.

Revelation 21:10, 24, 26 – He then carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, … The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. … They will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it.

This is the God whom we serve, the authority over all the earth, King of the earthly and spiritual kingdom once for all fused into eternal unity through his Messiah, Yeshua.

Revelation 22:17 – Both the Spirit and the bride say, “Come! ” Let anyone who hears, say, “Come! ” Let the one who is thirsty come. Let the one who desires take the water of life freely.


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.

A renewed heart will abide within the Kingdom law

The Ten Commandments are intended to be the guidance of our actions through the transforming of our hearts.

Core of the Bible podcast #86 – A renewed heart will abide within the Kingdom law

Today we will be looking at the topic of the kingdom, and how the commands of the kingdom charter, the Ten Commandments, are intended to be the guidance of our actions through the transforming of our hearts.

Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’ and ‘Whoever shall murder shall be in danger of the judgment.’ But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.”

Within the natural or physical kingdom of God of ancient Israel, it was necessary to establish rules and safeguards for the population. For a private individual to purposely take the life of another for personal reasons was forbidden, and an offense for which the natural judgment of capital punishment was necessitated for the good of the community.

However, Yeshua uses this basic tenet of the kingdom charter, the Ten Commandments, as a way of elevating the principle to include any intended act of unrighteous anger toward another. In one sense, just as some thought is necessary before an action, any act of murder begins with unrighteous anger towards another. By highlighting and restricting the offense of the emotion, the act will not be carried out. Therefore, to prevent murder, one must eliminate the unrighteous anger behind the action.

Stated another way, as Yeshua points out, the judgment that an individual could face by committing murder could equally be leveled by God against the emotion. The action starts there, so the ultimate judgment would apply there, as well.

This would have been a revolutionary way for Yeshua to be confronting the Jewish leaders with their own practices, and he knew it would have a condemning effect; that was the point. They were so focused on practicing the letter of the law that they were violating just about every intent of it.

For example, Yeshua confronted them many times on the hypocrisy of their actions, and how, as the recognized leaders within the wider Jewish community, they should have been setting the proper standards as leaders of integrity and faithfulness. Instead, they had become corrupted by their positions of authority, and mostly used their influence for personal agendas.

Matthew 23:23-24 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law ​– ​justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, but gulp down a camel!”

In a parallel passage in the gospel of Luke, Yeshua continues his rant against the religious establishment.

Luke 11:46, 52 – Then he said: “Woe also to you experts in the law! You load people with burdens that are hard to carry, and yet you yourselves don’t touch these burdens with one of your fingers. … Woe to you experts in the law! You have taken away the key to knowledge. You didn’t go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were trying to go in.”

These are only excerpts from the denunciations that Yeshua levels against the leaders. However, these hypocritical actions highlighted by Yeshua can be summarized within one specific charge that he expresses by using two successive examples for repeated emphasis.

Matthew 23:25-28 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside of it may also become clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

In the context of all that Yeshua condemned the leaders for, this primary condemnation has to do with the appearance on outside versus the reality on the inside. They had been focused on the outward cleanliness of the cup and dish, but the insides were still dirty. Tombs can look beautiful on the outside, but the reality on the inside is that they are full of corrupted bodies and bones. This is the same principle we have been exploring from his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5: 21-22 – “You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’ and ‘Whoever shall murder shall be in danger of the judgment.’ But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…”

According to Yeshua here, the true intent of the command not to murder is to reach to the emotion underlying the act. By condemning the inner emotion, the outward act is eliminated, and the command is enhanced. In essence, Yeshua is saying, “While everyone knows that murder subjects you to judgment, I tell you, in God’s eyes, the same applies to unchecked emotions. Therefore, do not call someone a fool or an idiot or be unrighteously angry with anyone.”

While this teaching may have seemed revolutionary at the time, it would only have been so because of the leaders’ disregard of the full instruction of Torah or God’s Word on this matter. This principle was taught in the Psalms and Proverbs.

  • Psalm 37:8 – Cease from anger and abandon wrath; Do not get upset; it leads only to evildoing.
  • Proverbs 14:16-17 – A wise person is cautious and turns from evil, but a fool is easily angered and is careless. A quick-tempered person acts foolishly, and one who schemes is hated.

As the teachings of Yeshua were passed on to his disciples and the message of God’s kingdom spread, the disciples carried with them the teaching of God’s Word as exemplified by the teachings of Messiah. John captured this same principle in his first epistle.

  • 1 John 2:9, 11 – “The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now. … But the one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
  • 1 John 3:15 – “Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.”
  • 1 John 4:20 – “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

John speaks to this issue by pointing to the consequences of inner hatred of others: darkness, murder, lying, not demonstrating love of God. These are all the negative aspects of a life that is lived with only an outward appearance of religiosity but not being sincerely lived from the heart motives underneath. This is what Yeshua condemned the Jewish leaders for, and what we stand condemned of if we also are hypocritical in our faith. The final result of these actions and motives is only judgment and death.

So far, we have looked at the judgment not only of actions but of the motives behind those actions. In a moment, we will look at the opposite of judgment and death, the life and blessings that can be the result of the renewed heart in the life of a believer.


If judgment is the result of the combination of the emotion and the action, then conversely, a blessing can be inferred from the inverse emotion and action combination. For example, if the command is to not murder or even be angry with anyone, and if we do the opposite by not being unrighteously angry with anyone at any time and instead safeguard the lives and interests of others, this will result in a blessing both for them and for us. The action flows from the intention and inner emotion, and when the inner intent is good, the actions will be good. This is how Yeshua taught that a tree (its inner goodness or badness) will be known (demonstrated) by its fruit (its actions).

Paul goes a little deeper into this process and provides the reasoning why inner bitterness should not be a part of the believer’s life.

Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Messiah.”

If we have truly been forgiven in Messiah, then our hearts should reflect that newness because of the recognition of God’s forgiveness in our lives. Paul refers to this characteristic as the “new man” or the “new self.”

  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, they are a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
  • Ephesians 4:20-24 – “But that is not how you came to know Messiah, assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Yeshua, to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.”
  • Colossians 3:8-10 – “But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.”

When the inner desires and motive are captive to God’s will, it is then that the true intent of God’s commands will be fulfilled in our outward actions, resulting in blessing, not judgment. This was the whole goal of the new covenant of the kingdom that was spoken about by the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

  • Jeremiah 31:33 – “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days” ​– ​Yahweh’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
  • Ezekiel 36:26-27 – “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances.”

This new living heart of flesh has been God’s plan all along, and had only become corrupted into a heart of stone when the letter of the law was put above the spirit of it. The apostle Paul teaches this principle to the Corinthian congregation.

2 Corinthians 3:6 – “He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

Paul then goes on to list the supremacy of the law of the spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:7-8 – “Now if the ministry that brought death, engraved in letters on stones, came with glory, so that the Israelites were not able to gaze steadily at Moses’s face because of its glory, which faded, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?”

The Ten Commandments were engraved by the finger of God in stone. In Paul’s line of reasoning throughout his epistles, the commands themselves, while holy and good, stir up within us the opposite intent by inciting us to the very thing they are intended to avoid.

Romans 7:10-13 – “The commandment that was meant for life resulted in death for me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. Therefore, did what is good become death to me? Absolutely not! On the contrary, sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure.”

The violation of any of the commands results in a type of death. We cannot truly serve God through only the letter of the law; this is what the Pharisees and scribes were guilty of. We saw this earlier in the passage in Matthew’s gospel.

Matthew 23:23-24 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law ​– ​justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.”

They were so intent on being obedient to the physical law of tithing that they focused on the physical minutia and were oblivious to the larger intent behind those laws resulting in justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Instead of their obedience to the law resulting in life, their outward conformity without inward spiritual motivation resulted in only death.

Going back to Paul’s analogy with Moses and the Ten Commandments is that if the stone commandments were powerful enough to cause Moses’ face to physically shine with glory, albeit only temporarily, how much more will the application of the inner spiritual motives of those commands cause believers to shine even more gloriously for all eternity? This is the whole point of the law: to lead us to the new covenant of the kingdom in Messiah, in whom the fullness of the law through the Spirit of God, enabling those inner motives to truly conform to his will, is revealed. The law is not done away; as Paul writes, it is “holy and just and good.” But what I believe he is trying to convey is that the letter of the law, empty of the power of the Spirit of God, is what has faded away. In its place, through Messiah, is a renewed heart that is enabled to keep that same law through the empowerment of God’s Spirit. This is the message of Jeremiah and Ezekiel; this is the gospel of the kingdom!

We do well to keep in mind that the physical kingdom of ancient Israel was the template, the basis, for the universal and spiritual kingdom of God. As such, the principles in place then, such as the command not to murder, are still in force in the universal kingdom.

However, through the instruction of Yeshua within the gospel of the kingdom, he highlighted how they are enhanced further. This was the meaning and the promise of the law being placed on the heart of the believer within the universal kingdom. If the heart has been renewed, then no law will be violated. In effect, if all of the actions come from a renewed heart of righteousness, then the law will be kept perfectly.

This is the goal that Yeshua came to express. This was the intent of the gospel of the kingdom, and why it was considered good news! As believers, we have been freed from the condemnation and death of the natural law without the Spirit, because the law placed on our heart and empowered by the Spirit ensures we are acting with true motives and abiding within the instruction of God for all time.


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.

Experiencing real peace when we trust in God

Peace indeed can be elusive, but when our priorities are in the right place, we find it becomes part of our lives without striving for it.

Peace indeed can be elusive, but when our priorities are in the right place, we find it becomes part of our lives without striving for it.

Matthew 6:34 – “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

I need to consistently learn this lesson over and over. How easy it is to get consumed with thoughts of upcoming events and situations that can create stress and anxiety, even though they haven’t occurred yet.

Isaiah 26:3-4 – You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you. Trust in Yahweh forever, because in Yahweh, Yahweh himself, is an everlasting rock!

The mind that recognizes it is dependent on God, that is established on and supported by the reality that God is above all, is a mind that can be at peace in any situation. The key is to have ultimate priorities in the right order.

Isaiah 26:8 – Yes, Yahweh, we wait for you in the path of your judgments. Our desire is for your name and renown.

Isaiah states it as ensuing that the name of Yahweh is honored and his glory is magnified in our lives. When we focus on those things, we can be at peace.

Yeshua taught that we should seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things (earthly needs that we stress out over) will be provided. If this is truly the case, then why should we worry at all about anything?

I think our stresses come in when we not only desire to have our needs met, but to be met in a certain way of our own choosing. We may define our “needs” as a certain income level, or type of work, or place to live. When those things aren’t evident in our lives in the way that we would like them to be, we somehow think that God isn’t able to meet our needs. In reality, we may have unrealistic expectations about those things, and God is not obligated to meet our desires when we trust in him, only our needs.

Yeshua taught that we should seek not only God’s kingdom as a priority, but his righteousness as a part of that kingdom. Righteousness is the ability and practice of doing what’s right in God’s eyes. I believe most of the struggles we face may stem from our own internal recognition of not living lives consistent with the righteousness of God. We see conflict with what we say we believe and what we actually do, and this can cause an underlying tension, slowly and methodically eating away at our peace.

However, when we do seek first his kingdom and righteousness as the appropriate priorities, and when we seek to honor him and magnify his name as his representatives, his children in this world, it is then we can take our focus off of the unknowns of the future or the missteps of the past to spend our attention and energy on today. When we realize that each day is a gift that is given to us (because we have no ability within ourselves to guarantee any type of future at all), then we can be better stewards of the time that we do have each day. This is not to say we should not plan for the future at all, but that we should not spend the majority of our time stressing over what has not even occurred yet (or may not occur at all) at the expense of honoring God with the strength we have today.

Striving for peace is almost the surest way to ensure it ever eludes us. However, striving for God’s kingdom, honor, and glory day by day brings a peace that slips in unnoticed, yet radiates down to our core. It is then that we are whole.


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.

Godly service in the present kingdom

As believers, our lives are lived in the presence of the kingdom and the authority of the Messiah.

As believers, our lives are lived in the presence of the kingdom and the authority of the Messiah.

Revelation 12:9-10 – So the great dragon was thrown out ​– ​the ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say, The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have now come, because the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been thrown down.

What I find compelling about this passage is the implication of the timing of the coming of the kingdom of God. In many circles today, it is common to hear that the kingdom is “now and not yet,” somehow meaning that the kingdom of God is kind of here now, but not really, and will be here in the future but has not yet come. By contrast, the biblical texts imply that the kingdom of God was something that was “at hand” (i.e., imminent) in that day, but also present as that age was culminated in the late first century A.D.

For example, in the Revelation passage quoted above is depicted the ejection of Satan out of the heavenly realms to the earth. Without taking time to delve into the apocalyptic meaning in detail, even a cursory reading of the passage will reveal that at the timing of that occurrence (the ejection of Satan), the “kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have now come.” And then as if to re-emphasize that fact, the sentence concludes that the kingdom of God has come “because the accuser of our brothers and sisters…has been thrown down.” These two events appear linked inextricably together in this passage.

Interestingly, we see Messiah speak of this event as if it were occurring during the time of his ministry to Israel, along with his reception of the authority given to him by God the Father:

Luke 10:17-18, 22-24 – Then the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!” So he [Yeshua] said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. … All things have been given to me by my Father...” Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

These individuals were living in a time when these very things were being fulfilled! The longings of the prophets and wise people of the ancient ages were becoming a reality before their very eyes! One of those prophets, Daniel, also spoke of the timing of when the kingdom of God would be established: in the days of “those kings,” the kings of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

Daniel 2:44 – And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

Also, the writer to the Hebrew congregation mentions that the believers of that day and age had already arrived at Mount Zion, the prophetic metaphorical title of the kingdom of God.

Hebrews 12:22-23 – …you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to myriads of angels in joyful assembly, to the congregation of the firstborn, enrolled in heaven.

This language is in the perfect indicative active tense; it is something that was presently occurring in completeness at that time, two thousand years ago. Dropping down a few verses later in this same passage, this idea of the contemporaneous arrival of the kingdom was further evidenced regarding the kingdom which “cannot be shaken” (that is, is not liable to fall like all of the other kingdoms of the world). The Weymouth version of this verse brings out the immediacy of the reception of that kingdom:

Hebrews 12:28 – Therefore, receiving, as we now do, a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us cherish thankfulness so that we may ever offer to God an acceptable service, with godly reverence and awe.

The writer of Hebrews is centering his argument on the fact that the faithful service of God’s people was to be based in their then-present reception of the kingdom of God and his authority, which should motivate them to “godly reverence and awe” in their “acceptable service.” Their service was to be grounded on the fact that they were now living in the promised kingdom of God.

Andrew Perriman, theologian of the London School of Theology, writes extensively on this topic in his books on telling the biblical story within its historical narrative, and on his website at www.postost.net. In an article on The kingdom of God: not ‘now and not yet, he writes the following:

“Just as Isaiah speaks of a messenger who brings good news to Zion, saying, ‘Your God reigns (basileusei),’ that he is about to restore Jerusalem, so Jesus proclaims the good news to Israel that YHWH is about act to judge injustice and faithlessness and to restore his sinful people. This is the focus of the prayer which he taught his disciples: ‘Your kingdom come….’ That restoration, however, is now a thing of the past, and the church has inherited the immense benefits and blessings that it brought about. God’s kingdom, in the sense that Jesus intended it, has come. It is no longer ‘now and not yet’. It simply is. There may be contexts in which the church still needs to pray for God to intervene decisively, for persecution to end, for enemies to be defeated, for believers to be vindicated, but in principle the hope of the redeemed, post-eschatological church today should be aimed, I think, at the renewal of creation.”

This sense that God’s kingdom simply “is,” and that our roles and responsibility now revolve around basing our service and ministries in the outworking of that reality in every generation, should provide for us the impetus for godly service and meaningful influence in a world that desperately needs it today.


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.

Helping those who cannot help themselves

This is how we become God’s workers and co-laborers in the building of the Kingdom.

Core of the Bible podcast #85 – Helping those who cannot help themselves

Today we will be looking at the topic of compassion, and how compassion is building bridges to others who are unable to get from where they are to where God wants them to be.

Luke 6:35-36 – …he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful.

In our English Bibles, sometimes verses that express compassion will mention mercy or kindness; sometimes compassion is equated with forgiveness. However it is expressed, we are commanded by Yeshua to be like God in regard to his mercy and compassion. What does that look like? Some examples taken from God’s dealings with ancient nation of Israel can provide us some indications of how God’s mercy and compassion is defined.

  • Ezekiel 16:5 – No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you, to have compassion on you; but you were cast out in the open field, for that your person was abhorred, in the day that you were born.
  • Psalm 78:36-39 – But they flattered him with their mouth, and lied to him with their tongue. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they faithful in his covenant. But he, being compassionate, forgave iniquity, and didn’t destroy them. Yes, many times he turned his anger away, and didn’t stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes away, and doesn’t come again.
  • Micah 7:18-19 – Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity, and passes over the disobedience of the remnant of his heritage? He doesn’t retain his anger forever, because he delights in loving kindness. He will again have compassion on us. He will tread our iniquities under foot; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
  • Jeremiah 12:15 – It shall happen, after that I have plucked them up [from their land due to their disobedience], I will return and have compassion on them; and I will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.

God’s compassion has been evident in choosing to take care of Israel as caring for an abandoned baby. His compassion is evident in forgiving them when they were consistently unthankful and disobedient to him. His compassion is evident in restoring Israel to the land he had promised them even after their captivity for disobedience.

If we are to be merciful and compassionate like our Father, we need to recognize that the examples he sets for us are teaching us that compassion is all about reaching out to and helping those who are unable to help themselves.

Yeshua exhibited this same type of compassion, just like his Father, helping those who could not help themselves.
He understood this principle and took it upon himself to teach and shepherd his people who were like lost sheep without a shepherd. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 50:6 – My people were lost sheep; their shepherds led them astray, guiding them the wrong way in the mountains. They wandered from mountain to hill; they forgot their resting place.

Yeshua recognized that this was the condition of his people, which is why he so ardently strove to ensure they had a correct understanding of the Kingdom of God, not just the corrupted traditions of the religious elite.

  • Matthew 15:24 – [Yeshua] replied, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
  • Matthew 9:36 – When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were bewildered and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
  • Mark 6:34 – As Yeshua came ashore he saw the large crowd and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he taught them many things.

The text tells us that the act of teaching them “many things” was an act of compassion on his part. Perhaps these were the teachings of Luke 6, compared to the instruction of the Sermon on the Mount. If these were part of Yeshua’s regular teachings, it is not unlikely that they may have been conveyed at this time.

Additionally, he compassionately healed their sick.

Matthew 14:13-14 – Now when Yeshua heard this he went away from there privately in a boat to an isolated place. But when the crowd heard about it, they followed him on foot from the towns. As he got out he saw the large crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Yeshua healing the sick was an act of compassion for their suffering, and also an indication that the Kingdom of God was present among them.

Luke 11:14, 20 – Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the man who had been mute began to speak, and the crowds were amazed. … But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has already overtaken you.

Yeshua’s compassion was an indicator that God’s Kingdom on the earth was becoming a reality, and that soon it would be a universal constant among all the nations.

Also, Yeshua demonstrated compassion on the crowd’s physical hunger in the remote place where he had been teaching.

Matthew 15:32 – Then Yeshua called the disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have already been here with me three days and they have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry since they may faint on the way.”

He miraculously provided for them in a dramatic demonstration that God has the ability to provide for all physical needs.

Finally, and most importantly, in a representative fashion Yeshua took up the sins of the rebellious upon himself.

Romans 5:6-8 – For while we were still helpless, at the right time Messiah died for the ungodly. (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Messiah died for us.

The text mentions the helplessness of those whom Messiah died for; there was nothing they could do to change their condition before a holy God. They are classified as ungodly and sinners. The word for helpless is literally strengthless, having no strength in and of themselves to overcome their ungodly and sinful ways. By all rights, these are individuals who are deserving only of the the wrath of God due to their defiance of his ways. Yet the example of Yeshua, by assuming the symbolic role of a sacrificial lamb for those who place their faith in him, assumes their place and identity before God. His death then becomes representative of the believer’s death for disobedience, and they are counted by God as released from their due penalty for breaking his laws and are allowed life.

John 15:12-13 – My commandment is this – to love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends.

Our compassion is to be based on this type of love and compassion that have been exhibited by Yahweh and Yeshua. It is a compassion that provides for the needs of others when they do not have the ability to help themselves, even at the expense of our own lives. But how are we to apply this same concept in our daily living? In a moment, we will begin to explore some application of these principles in the lives of believers today.


As stated previously, if we are to be merciful and compassionate like our Father or like Messiah Yeshua, we need to recognize that the examples that are set for us are teaching us that compassion is all about reaching out to and helping those who are unable to help themselves.

Zechariah 7:8-10 – Again the word of Yahweh came to Zechariah: “Yahweh who rules over all said, ‘Exercise true judgment and show brotherhood and compassion to each other. You must not oppress the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, or the poor, nor should anyone secretly plot evil against his fellow human being.’

Yahweh, speaking through the prophet Zechariah, instructed his people that demonstrating true justice is evident when they show brotherhood and compassion with each other. He lists helpless among them, like widows, orphans, the poor, and foreigners (all who were considered the lowest class of their society) were not to be oppressed in any way. There should never be any indication of plotting evil against others for selfish gain or personal agendas.

1 John 3:16-18 – By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet shuts off compassion against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Having the ability to share our worldly resources with those in need is certainly one of the most recognizable ways we can demonstrate compassion with others. In this passage, the apostle John equates this kind of compassion with love: the same type of love that Yeshua demonstrated with us.

Yeshua himself taught that no matter who the individual is, the helpless one should be a concern for those who have the ability to help; this is a true demonstration of compassion.

Luke 10:33-35 – But a Samaritan who was traveling came to where the injured man was, and when he saw him, he felt compassion for him. He went up to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever else you spend, I will repay you when I come back this way.’

In this most famous parable of Yeshua regarding the good Samaritan, the illustration is placed before us of the depth of compassion shown to be evident in someone caring for the needs of another, an anonymous individual who had no ability to help themself after being assaulted and left for dead. I can think of no greater example of helplessness than this. We are encouraged to follow the example of the Samaritan in the parable in the summation of the lesson by Yeshua.

Luke 10:36-37 – Which of these three do you think became a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The expert in religious law said, “The one who showed mercy to him.” So Yeshua said to him, “Go and do the same.”

This mercy or compassion is the quality that should be evident in our lives, even if we do not know the individual who is in need.

In a more subtle way, we can also demonstrate compassion on those with whom we may be at odds due to some unreconciled conflict.

Matthew 5:23-24 – “So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, “leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

If someone has wronged you, the relationship cannot be restored unless you extend compassion; you are helping someone who cannot get help themselves get past some misunderstanding or offense. This is equally as compassionate as providing food or clothing to those who have none, or very little. If we are to imitate our Father, it has to be in relentlessly building bridges between those who are unyielding in their positions or those whose circumstances will not be changed without some sort of intervention. Our compassion is designed to be the catalyst that drops barriers, opens doors, meets physical needs and sparks understanding. Compassion is building bridges to others who are unable to get from where they are to where God ultimately wants them to be.

This is the end-goal of the command for us to be merciful and compassionate with others. It has less to do with our obedience and more to do with genuinely desiring to help those who cannot help themselves. When we lay down our own lives (our personal ambitions and plans) for the sake of others, we are then acting in a godly fashion that God expects of his children. To exhibit the characteristics of God by helping the helpless is not only an honor and privilege he affords us, but we also then become the avenues through which God can work in practical ways in their lives.

Through helping the helpless, we demonstrate we are followers of Messiah Yeshua. This is how we bear God’s image in this world. This is how we become God’s workers and co-laborers in the building of the Kingdom.


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.