How we can sanctify ourselves for God’s use in any situation

When we refine ourselves in God’s Word, we can continually prepare ourselves to be the most useful to him.

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness or sanctification, and how our ongoing commitment to God’s word distinguishes us beyond just participating in God’s Kingdom in ways that are more beneficial for God’s overall purposes.

Paul wrote to Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:20-21 – “In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds: some are made of silver and gold, others of wood and clay; some are for special occasions, others for ordinary use. Those who make themselves clean from these things will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed.”

Holiness is about being sanctified or set apart for God’s specific purposes. In the example that Paul uses here with Timothy, there is also an ongoing refinement that is similar to recognizing the differences between ordinary plates for everyday use and fine china that would be used for special occasions. There is a cleansing or refining process that he mentions: “those who make themselves clean.”

So, let’s take a closer look at this process of sanctification or being set apart. Sanctification is clearly a process that God performs by calling people to himself but is also partly a process that we are responsible for, as well, as we walk in the way that he has called us to.

To help break this down a little further, I’d like to focus on these two aspects in separate sections; the first part of the equation is God’s calling and setting apart his own for himself. The second part is how we continue that process of sanctification as we live out our lives within the Kingdom.

I believe this first part can best be illustrated by reviewing a parable of Yeshua in which he outlines this process of God calling a people to himself. Now, the context of Yeshua’s parable appears to have been given in the house of one of the Pharisees, who had invited many individuals to a banquet at his home.

Luke 14:1 – “One Sabbath, when he went in to eat at the house of one of the leading Pharisees, they were watching him closely.”

When Yeshua then sees how those who were invited chose the best seats, he taught them with a parable on humility.

Luke 14:7 – “He told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves.”

This parable is summarized in the following verses:

Luke 14:10-11 – “But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

So this lesson in humility spurred on a further conversation, as he then received a question from one of those at the table:

Luke 14:15 – “When one of those who reclined at the table with him heard these things, he said to him, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!'”

At this point, Yeshua spoke to the group in another parable, the parable of the wedding banquet. It appears to have been one of the central teachings of Yeshua as it is also recorded in a parallel passage in Matthew 22. Here is Matthew’s version regarding who is called.

Matthew 22:1-3 – “Once more Yeshua spoke to them in parables: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to summon [call] those invited to the banquet, but they didn’t want to come.'”

This parable, which as we shall see is also a prophecy, neatly outlines the institution of the Kingdom of God at Messiah’s coming. Those who were invited to the banquet were the Jews, and yet most of them refused to recognize him as their Messiah.

Matthew 22:4-6 – “Again, he sent out other servants and said, ‘Tell those who are invited: See, I’ve prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ “But they paid no attention and went away, one to his own farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.”

This illustrates the period of persecution that was unleashed upon the believers in the first century. Yeshua had warned the religious leaders that they would do these horrendous things, and he also had prepared his followers that this will be done to them.

Matthew 23:34 – “This is why I am sending you [religious leaders] prophets, sages, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.”

Matthew 24:9 – “Then they will hand you [you followers of mine] over to be persecuted, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.”

So this parable can be shown to be more than just an illustration of a spiritual truth, but of a coming outworking of God’s purposes, as well. In a declaration of finality, Yeshua then explains the response of the king to those who had refused his call.

Matthew 22:7 – “The king was enraged, and he sent out his troops, killed those murderers, and burned down their city.”

This was the same prophetic foresight that Yeshua predicted in another context.

Luke 21:20 – “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that its desolation has come near.”

This actually did occur within that generation, as the city of Jerusalem was burned down and the temple was destroyed, just as Yeshua had predicted.

Now the completion of the parable is summarized succinctly by Luke in his gospel:

Luke 14:21-24 – “…Then in anger, the master of the house told his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.’ ” ‘Master,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’ Then the master told the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, not one of those people who were invited will enjoy my banquet.’ “

This was an indication that the call of God had to be extended to the Jews first, but when they refused to come, the call or invitation then went out to whomsoever would come.

Peter had proclaimed this same message to the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

Acts 3:13, 15, 25-26 – “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Yeshua, whom you handed over and denied before Pilate, though he had decided to release him. … You killed the source of life, whom God raised from the dead; we are witnesses of this. … You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring. God raised up his servant and sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Paul reiterated this principle that was also used on his missionary journeys prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. He would visit a city and first present the kingdom message to the Jews, and then to a wider audience, whoever would listen.

Acts 13:45-48 – “But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what Paul was saying, insulting him. Paul and Barnabas boldly replied, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first. Since you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles. For this is what Yahweh has commanded us: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles to bring salvation to the end of the earth.”‘ When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and honored the word of Yahweh, and all who had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

Paul also taught the universality of the gospel of the Kingdom message to the Roman congregation.

Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.

The call or invitation of God was to become universal once the Jews had had an opportunity to respond first; if they rejected it, God would reach out to whoever would listen and believe. In the grandest sense, this opportunity of the Jews to respond to God’s mercy was demonstrated to have been completed once the destruction of Jerusalem had occurred. From that point on, all who would then hear with “ears to hear” would then be invited and called into the Kingdom.

In a moment, we will look more closely at how this calling is worked out in the life of a believer once they have responded favorably to God’s invitation.


So with the completion of the call of God going out specifically to his people of that day and age, the Jews, God’s call then moves into a universal sphere of all who will listen to the good news of the gospel of the Kingdom. This is why Paul and the early believers were so anxious to ensure as many as people as possible could hear and understand the gospel message.

Romans 10:14-15 – “How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”

Once a person has responded to the call of God, God then sets them apart, or sanctifies them by placing them within the body of believers who make up the Kingdom of God.

Ephesians 2:10 – “God has made us what we are. He has created us in Messiah Yeshua to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do.”

According to Paul, believers are “created in Messiah Yeshua.” This demonstrates how one becomes initially set apart by believing in Messiah; when that occurs, there is a “new creation” that takes place.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 – “From now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Even if we have known Messiah from a worldly perspective, yet now we no longer know him in this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”

One becomes born again or born from above, and a new life in a new environment begins. The old worldly perspective no longer applies; all things are made new for the believer.

Additionally, one cannot be a believer without being “in him.” One can say they believe in God and be attached to any religious expression in the world, but one cannot be a believer in the God of the Bible without believing in Yeshua as the Messiah, the one sent by God to free people from bondage to sin.

Okay, now, so far, I realize we have traveled a lot of Scriptural miles today and covered some far-ranging concepts in the process, but let’s return back to the starting point of Paul’s original illustration of dishes and bowls in the large house.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 – “In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds: some are made of silver and gold, others of wood and clay; some are for special occasions, others for ordinary use. Those who make themselves clean from these things will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed.”

Paul tells Timothy that “In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds…” The “large house” can be viewed as the Kingdom of God. Paul is not here discussing the condition of the world at large, but the conditions that exist among God’s own people. At this point, God has sanctified and set apart those who have responded to his call, as we have seen, and the large house can be viewed as where all the activity of the Kingdom takes place.

But now, Paul begins to make a distinction between that which is everyday from that which is special, and he intimates it is a process initiated by the believer by saying, “those who make themselves clean from these things will be used for special purposes…”

Not to belabor the illustration, but there appear to be distinctions of sanctification among believers as well. This is not outside the bounds of Scriptural precedent, either.

For example, the Levites were all priests, but the sons of Aaron held specific duties within the overall priesthood. In another example, Yeshua had twelve disciples, but we find Peter, James, and John as a kind of “inner circle” of the disciples, whom Paul semi-sarcastically refers to as “pillars of the faith.”

Galatians 2:9 – “When James, Peter, and John ​– ​those recognized as pillars ​– ​acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to me and Barnabas, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”

So once we are made pure by the act of God sanctifying us, we have a need to remain pure because of our ongoing association with the world and its influences. The psalmist also ponders this idea of keeping one’s way pure.

Psalm 119:9 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.”

In an overall sense, God has set us apart by drawing us to faith in Messiah so that we may do the good things he has prepared for us to do, according to his word. But by continuing to sharpen our obedience to God’s word, we also distinguish ourselves from those in God’s household who are content to remain simply with their sanctification from the world.

In Paul’s example, these are the plates used for ordinary purposes, for the basics of eating and drinking, for the rough and tumble of everyday existence. These are the plates and bowls that have chips and cracks, that have rough edges, blemishes and marks from use. They are serviceable in the uses they are designed for, but they all carry evidence of that use, and are not as likely to be used for special occasions.

By contrast, the gold and silver plates and cups are those which would be used for specific events that are noteworthy: the holiday gatherings with friends and family, or the formal dinners with respected individuals and guests. Paul is implying that, apart from God’s sanctification from the rest of the world, believers can “cleanse themselves” further from rough, ordinary use into something that is more useful to God in special ways. But this has to be an intentional purpose on their part, something that is chosen to do by disciplining themselves in his word to create and maintain the luster and polish required of the fine china.

This is not to be a point of disagreement or schism within the body as if some are “more spiritual” than others, but only a distinction of growth, learning, and application. After all, an acorn is not yet an oak tree, but it contains within it every aspect of the mighty oak. Small seedlings may have sprouted, but they have not yet achieved the heights of the mature oak tree. In this sense, all of us “former acorns” are in various stages of our spiritual development within the Kingdom of God, and we need to support and encourage one another along the way, so that every believer grows to their fullest potential in the time given to us.

Ephesians 4:1-3 – “Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

The context of the passage with the dishes, plates, and cups helps us frame a reference for this concept of living worthy of the calling, as Paul had just mentioned it to Timothy a few verses earlier.

2 Timothy 2:15 – “Make every effort to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman who accurately handles the word of truth.”

This is the same principle that he goes into further detail with the believers in Ephesus, encouraging them to make intentional choices and effort in living the new life, as he puts it, in the “putting on of the new man” or the new self.

Ephesians 4:17-24 – “Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their thoughts. They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more. 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.”

The making of the effort to present ourselves unashamedly to God demonstrates our willingness to manifest the great gifts that God has given us. Of course, God can use any vessel for his purpose, fine china or regular plates, but the fine china is designed for the most special of occasions to bear the finest foods. If this is the case, why shouldn’t we seek to improve the opportunities for God to use us by setting ourselves apart in ways that allow him to use us in any situation that he sees fit?

Let me hasten to add this is not in any way a justification for some who would try to intentionally set themselves above others just for the purpose of being considered better or more valuable to God than other believers. If this is the case, then Yeshua’s parable on humility has lost its footing. Instead, we should seek to continually sanctify ourselves not for our glory but for God’s. In this way, we can continually prepare ourselves to be the most useful to him and provide him the greatest amount of “special dishes” to use as he sets the banquet wide for any and all to come to him.


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

The sacrificial requirement of being a disciple

The cost of discipleship involves a practical outworking of love.

The cost of discipleship involves a practical outworking of love.

  • Matthew 10:38-39 – “And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it.”
  • Luke 14:33 – “In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

In my view, modern discipleship, at least from my American perspective, looks very different from what Yeshua taught his followers. Believers attempt to mix in discipleship to Yeshua amidst the trappings of our Western culture. In other parts of the world where biblical principles are being pursued in earnest, American Christians are looked upon as trying to have their cake, and eat it, too. Believers in America, myself included, struggle with the balance of spirituality and wealth. Generally speaking, we love to seek after the principles of the Bible, and yet we still desire to have the latest technology and pursue the highest levels of status among our peers. To the majority of the world outside of this bubble of access to resources, this appears to be duplicitous and insincere.

This is not without good reason, as Yeshua didn’t teach about any type of balance between spirituality and wealth. In fact, he taught very clearly that it is impossible to have it both ways:

  • Mark 10:23 – Yeshua looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! “
  • Luke 16:13 – “No servant can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Yeshua taught that wealth, while not inherently evil, has the intoxicating effect of drawing one away from God and consuming their passions. American believers tend to excuse themselves from this analogy by comparing themselves to one another and saying about themselves: “I’m not rich; look at how much this other person has. That’s who this verse applies to.” What we fail to realize is that even some of what we might consider to be meager income and living standards are still miles above most of the rest of the world. We have so much that we take for granted that we can’t even distinguish for ourselves how well-off we are.

Yet, into this rich culture of bounty and excess, the words of Yeshua ring sharp and clear: “every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” This seems so foreign, so alien to the type of spirituality we have become intoxicated with that we tend to skip over passages like this, carelessly assigning its meaning to someone other than ourselves.

However, we do ourselves a disservice when we overlook the spiritual instruction of Yeshua that was intended specifically for us, for anyone who claims to believe in the God of the Bible and yet is focused more on themselves than him. Our attachment to earthly possessions and status should be so thin that, should that silver cord break, we would be no less inclined to honor God. In fact, our faith should become all the stronger with a deeper reliance on him.

As I mentioned, God does not view wealth as inherently evil. For example, even Solomon understood that all worldly blessing comes from God.

  • Ecclesiastes 3:13 – “It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts.”
  • Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 – “Here is what I have seen to be good: It is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. Furthermore, everyone to whom God has given riches and wealth, he has also allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart.”

If we recognize our place of privilege for what it is, that in itself can take us to a place where we are less attached to those things that can distract us from serving God faithfully. When we can truly say in our hearts that if everything we have was exchanged for only the bare necessities of living and we could still maintain, or increase, our faith in God, then we are moving our faith in the right direction. When we go even further and begin to purposefully and intentionally look for ways to provide for others out of our resources at the expense of our own comfort, then we are beginning to embrace the intent of Yeshua’s teaching.

Being vigilant and watchful with the responsibility for all that we possess is absolutely necessary to true discipleship. When we are willing to sacrificially meet the needs of others at our own expense is one practical definition of biblical love, and the root of what Yeshua desires from the hearts of all of his disciples, regardless of status.


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

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

In this kingdom we bear the name and character of God

This is what the third commandment is all about.

Core of the Bible podcast #65 – In this kingdom we bear the name and character of God

Today we will be looking at the topic of the Kingdom of God, and how by being in the kingdom, we carry God’s name. Because of this, our words and actions should match his.

Exodus 20:7 – “You do not take up the name of your God Yahweh for a vain thing, for Yahweh does not acquit him who takes up His name for a vain thing.”

As one of the Ten Commandments or Ten “Words” which I believe are the charter instructions for the kingdom of God, I wanted to take some time to explore the nature of what this commandment is really all about.

This verse has classically been used throughout generations for the purpose of not abusing or misusing the revealed name of God, in the sense of using his name as a curse word, or speaking it casually in conversation outside of an appropriate worship setting, or reading it within the text of the Bible.

But as we explore this verse today I think we’ll see that these caricatures miss the intent of what God is attempting to teach us here and throughout the whole Bible. The real sense of the passage is less about misusing God’s name carelessly, and more about our character in claiming to be believers or followers of him.

To begin with, let’s look at how the verse is expressed in some of its original Hebrew key words to gain some depth of what exactly is being discussed.

To “take up” God’s name means to lift or carry; it conveys the idea of raising or bearing a load or burden; it can also mean to accept. To “take” his name is to take up, or carry his name as identifying who we are, or rather, whose we are.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the word for name. The word for “name” in Hebrew is shem. The idea of avoiding pronouncing the sacred name of God (which I refer to as Yahweh) comes from a long tradition among the Jews, who wanted to substitute another word, “adonai,” whenever Yahweh appeared in the text to avoid speaking the sacred name casually or without respect. This word translates into the English as “lord” and is usually printed in all capitals in the Old Testament to identify that verse as containing the sacred name of God.

I suppose the idea behind this practice has been to honor God’s name; however, it has not always been this way, even among God’s people. Hundreds of years before Messiah, it was still a common practice to greet one another with the blessings of Yahweh; it was not until after the return from their captivity that they adopted the practice of not pronouncing the name of God. To this day, God is typically referenced among Jews as HaShem, a title which literally means, the Name.

There is nothing really wrong in continuing this practice out of respect for God, but it is important to recognize there is nothing within the Bible itself that requires this avoidance of pronouncing the name of God, Yahweh. In fact, it could be argued from the Bible that God actually encourages and expects us to use his name, which is why he told it to Moses in the first place:

Exodus 3:15 – “God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever,

and this my title for all generations.'”

The reason this has significance is because the word shem or name also conveys some meanings about what it represents. It is associated with the fame or glory of an individual, indicative of their character. From a Hebraic perspective, to utter someone’s name is to call out their character.

This is one of the main reasons I prefer to use the name Yeshua instead of Jesus when speaking of the Messiah, because the word Yeshua in Hebrew conveys the idea of salvation, that which the Messiah came to provide.

Now as a representative name applies to Yahweh, Amos exemplifies this type of use of the word when he says:

Amos 5:8 – “The one who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns darkness into dawn and darkens day into night, who summons the water of the sea and pours it out over the surface of the earth — Yahweh is his name.”

This verse shows how God’s ability or nature as the Creator is contained within his “name” or his character. To recognize and honor his name is to recognize him as the Creator and sustainer of all.

It is also representative of a memorial of that character or essence.

Isaiah 66:22 – “For just as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, will remain before me” — this is Yahweh’s declaration — “so your offspring and your name will remain.”

The idea that Isaiah conveys here is that the Israelites’ name, that which embodies who they are, would remain with their future generations.

So from this brief look at a few of the words and phrases more closely, we can see that to take the name of God is to lift, carry, or honor his name (as in raising it up). That which is being lifted, carried and honored is his character, his reputation. Therefore, those who belong to the kingdom of God should be honoring the name, or character, of God with their thoughts, speech, and conduct.

As one of the Ten Commandments within the charter of the kingdom of God, this then implies that honoring the name through living out its values is appropriate and expected kingdom behavior.


So far we have seen that the admonition here is not about the abuse of God’s name, but it’s about when we are identifying as belonging to him, we do not dishonor or defame his name or character by our careless conduct. When someone comes to the knowledge of God and wants to be his follower, then they take his name, identifying with his character. By this participation in the kingdom of God, as his children, we carry his name and his character in this world.

To “take God’s name in vain” is not expressly to use his name flippantly (although that certainly is included). The fact that the commandment urges us to not take the name “in vain” could be paraphrased as “You shall not take my name lightly or for no purpose.”

Our desire to follow his ways should not be rooted in our own selfish ambition or schemes. We should not join the kingdom impetuously, without any real thought for the responsibility we bear. Unfortunately, I have witnessed many “altar calls” for people to become believers based on transient emotions, getting swept away in the moment by some moving stories or demonstrative worship experience.

These type of theatrics were not how Yeshua practiced ministry; he never “worked” the crowds to cause people to come to him. In fact, if anything, his teaching was so polarizing and hotly debated that sometimes people left by droves.

John 6:60-61, 66 “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ But Yeshua, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you?’ … Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.”

Coming to faith in the God of the Bible is not a matter of spiritual feelings or some worshipful experience based on emotion; it should be a willing desire based on a knowledge and understanding of what being a disciple, a member of God’s kingdom, means.

Luke 14:27-30 – “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’”

Sadly, I have seen many sincere people begin to build a tower that they could not finish, and I believe it was because their foundation was not based on a knowledge of the Holy One, but on feelings and emotions that faded when the reality of the daily participation in the kingdom was realized. Essayist and poet G.K. Chesterton has been famously quoted as saying: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried.”

The carrying of one’s cross implies that in some respects the life of a disciple is one of carrying a sacrificial burden, one that involves the reduction of self in all things. Carrying the name of God is such a burden, as it is a diminishment of ourselves and a lifting up of his honor and character. Within the kingdom of God, we should be sincere in our desires to live for him and to bring honor and glory to his name. When we carry his name, our actions and our words should match his.

Yeshua demonstrated this so completely that it was impossible to distinguish between him and his Father.

John 5:19 – “So Yeshua said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.'”

John 7:16 – “So Yeshua answered them, ‘My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.'”

John 12:49 – “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment–what to say and what to speak.”

John 14:8-9 – “Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Yeshua said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?'”

When we consider following the Messiah, we are accepting that he was sent from the Father, and carried the name of God so completely that he was essentially indistinguishable from the Father. If we are to become more and more like Messiah, then this same characteristic should be evident in our lives. When people see or hear us, they should be seeing what the Father would want to do or say in that situation.

Does this sound like a heavy responsibility? Of course, which is why we should not take his name lightly or for no purpose, which is the whole point of the third commandment. As we have seen already, we are admonished by Yeshua to count the cost of kingdom living (Luke 14:25-33), but in so doing, to accept it willingly and gladly.

The kingdom is a place of great joy and fulfillment, but it is also a participation in a lifestyle of discipline and self-control. As one of the gifts of God’s Spirit, we should demonstrate self-control so that we do not defame the name that we bear. As we reflect his glory and honor in our words in our actions, we can be sure that we are providing every opportunity for others to be drawn to him, and for the kingdom to become a little bit larger in our generation.


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

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

Holiness as a destiny?

What the Bible teaches about predestination

Jeremiah 1:4-5 – Now the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

When Jeremiah was called by God, it was revealed to him that his role as a prophet was something that had been in the mind of God prior even to his being conceived or born. From this, many great Bible thinkers over the millennia have ascertained this an indication of a universal principle for all men; that God predetermines the lives of all: some for holiness and righteousness, and others for corruption.

John Gill (ca. early 1700’s) writes:
“‘I knew thee’…. Not merely by his omniscience, so he knows all men before their conception and birth; but with such a knowledge as had special love and affection joined with it; in which sense the Lord knows them that are his, as he does not others, and predestinates them unto eternal life; and which is not only before their formation in the womb, but before the foundation of the world, even from all eternity.”

The Keil and Delitsch commentary (ca. 1800’s) states:
“God in His counsel has not only foreordained our life and being, but has predetermined before our birth what is to be our calling upon this earth; and He has accordingly so influenced our origin and our growth in the womb, as to prepare us for what we are to become, and for what we are to accomplish on behalf of His kingdom. This is true of all men…”

With all due respect to these great theological minds, I believe that drawing a universal principal from this verse oversteps the intent of the text and brings us within the halls of Calvinism: the idea of predestination of all people.

I believe Scripture reveals that God can and does select some individuals for specific purposes within the outworking of his kingdom. Some other expressed examples of this besides Jeremiah include Samson, John the baptizer, and even Paul the apostle.

Judges 13:3-5 – And the angel of Yahweh appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. … No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”

Luke 1:13-15 – But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

Galatians 1:15-16 – But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone…

The Geneva Study Bible states it very simply and concisely:
(g) The scripture uses this manner of speech to declare that God has appointed his minsters to their offices before they were born, as in Isa 49:1, Ga 1:15.

This clarifies this principle to demonstrate that God works his purpose as he sees fit and raises up individuals to accomplish his will as needed in specific instances and specific roles. As an example of this, Scripture tells us that God even had a specific purpose for the Pharaoh of Egypt who contended with Moses:

Exodus 9:16 – But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

However, to draw from this that everyone is pre-destined to holiness or condemnation is over-stepping the bounds of what is being conveyed through the use of this type of language and imagery. Yeshua states it this way:

Luke 14:8, 10-11 – “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, … But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Through this, Yeshua teaches us that our role as believers is simply to remain humble and faithful to God through his word in all things. And if God so chooses to call us up to a higher station, that is certainly his prerogative. Of that honored individual, it could be said that God has set them apart for that specific purpose in that place and time. But to draw from this that everyone else at the table was pre-determined for dishonor goes beyond the overall context of Scripture.


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

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

To trust God by serving others removes anxiety from our lives

Allowing God to work in our interest, not against us, requires faith.

1 Peter 5:5-7 – In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.

Peter here is encouraging humility among those to whom he is writing. First for the elders and leaders of the congregations, and then for the young who might be resistant to authority. He then justifies this position with a quote from Proverbs 3:34, saying “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” In his context, Peter relates that a position of humility is preferred so that God can then lift them up at the appropriate time. This is reminiscent of the teaching of Yeshua:

Luke 14:8-11 – “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. “The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. “But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

By drawing on this imagery from Messiah, Peter is encouraging humility among all the believers so that God would then have opportunity to exalt them. In this way, Peter continues, there was no need to be anxious, since God would surely accomplish this in his perfect timing. Take care of others, he says, and God will take care of you.

Humbling oneself requires a deep trust in God. In humbling oneself, one must believe that there is a greater good for God’s purposes that can result from this humility, because our natural response is not to humble ourselves in the service and preference of others but to serve ourselves and our needs above others.

From Peter’s perspective when we focus on ourselves we tend to be more anxious, not knowing how we can achieve or gain what we need. Yet, when we humble ourselves and choose to put others before ourselves, our anxiety can be shed in this service of God, knowing that he is the One who cares for our needs. While we are busying ourselves with the needs of others, God is working quietly on our behalf, providing us favor in our time of need.

The proverb contrasts this state of grace and favor among the humble with an unfavorable alternative by saying that God actively resists the proud and arrogant. This idea goes back to a principle I believe is throughout the Bible: there are natural moral and spiritual consequences built into this Creation by God. In this instance, when one is arrogant, self-centered, and mocking others God has set bounds in place that work against that type of individual, whether socially, physically, or spiritually.

The apostle James also leverages this same quote from Proverbs for a similar use, in encouraging his hearers to get their eyes off praying for things they personally desire and onto the needs of others.

James 4:3-4, 6 – You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God. … But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Why should we place ourselves in an adversarial position against God by seeking our own elevated status and position? According to Peter and James, this is what happens when we seek our own desires above the needs of others. This condition creates anxiety for always having to gauge who we can trust and how we can maintain our standing.

Instead, when we demonstrate our trust in God and his design for the world by producing fruit of genuine humility and service for others, we can then shed our anxiety for our position and status in this world. Serving God by serving others relieves us from our concern for ourselves and allows us the freedom to truly provide for the needs of those around us with sincerity and love.


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

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