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.

Trusting God for ransom and atonement

The ancient practice of Israel regarding the Day of Atonement is rooted in the depths of the Torah.

The ancient practice of Israel regarding the Day of Atonement (Yom haKippurim) is rooted in the depths of the Torah.

Leviticus 16:29-31 – “This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before Yahweh. It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute.”

Yom Kippur differs from Passover (Pesach) in that Pesach represents God redeeming his first born people from out of slavery, while Yom Kippur was meant to cleanse and purify sin from the nation. The redemption accomplished at Pesach set the people free from their forced obligation to unwillingly serve the harsh taskmasters of Egypt. God “paid the price” as it were so their indebtedness to slavery was removed and those who sought to drag them back to slavery were wiped out in the Red Sea. But at Yom Kippur, any collective sin that may have been unaccounted for throughout the year was removed from them through the symbolic act of a representative goat that was sacrificed and of a second live goat bearing their sin into the wilderness. As these acts were concluded, the people were to consider themselves cleansed and pure for service to God once again.

Both of these holidays on the biblical calendar balance each other out. One must be delivered from oppression in order to act freely. Yet, with that freedom comes the ability to act rebelliously, wherein a secondary cleansing process is provided to remove that potential sin from the community. In this way, there is no excuse before God as to why an individual might act in defiance to God’s word. He has provided the redemption price from unwilling servitude to sin (represented by Egypt/Pharaoh) and he has also provided the means of ongoing cleansing from inadvertent rebellious acts (due to freedom) through the dual goats at Yom Kippur. Both of these days represent the symbolic work of Messiah Yeshua for the nation of Israel and any who would also place their faith in him. Yeshua became the symbolic ransom of Pesach and also the ongoing cleansing of sin symbolized in the goat ceremony at Yom Kippur.

  • Mark 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
  • 1 Timothy 2:5-6 – For there is one God, [and] one mediator also between God and men, [the] man Messiah Yeshua, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony [given] at the proper time.
  • Hebrews 9:24-26 – For Messiah did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that he might now appear in the presence of God for us. He did not do this to offer himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another. Otherwise, he would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself.
  • Hebrews 7:25 – Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

On the day of atonement, one goat was sacrificed, while another had the sins of the nation pronounced upon it and was sent alive out into the wilderness to remove sin from the community. This duality was fulfilled in the imagery provided by not only the death of Messiah as the King of Israel, but also his resurrection to the right hand of the Father as the first-born son of God.

To the common believer in ancient Israel, it required trust in God to know that they were not only ransomed from involuntary solitude at Pesach, but also that their sins were removed from them at Yom Kippur. The work of God among his people has always been by faith.

Romans 1:16-17 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed–a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Messiah’s sacrificial obedience to the Father not only fulfilled these foreshadowing biblical types, but also demonstrated a life that was yielded 100% by faith to the purpose of God and his kingdom coming to this earth. Our faith in observing these days represents our commitment to God and our faith in him. Setting these days aside to reflect on the marvelous provision of God for his people is representative of our love for him.

Of course, there are no longer any actual animal sacrifices that can be (or should be performed). However, what remains is the potential for our own sacrificial obedience to his word. Observing biblical sabbaths revealed in God’s word is an act of faith, just as it was for the ancient Israelites. It should not be a matter of obligation or duty, but a desire from the heart to recount his faithfulness in these past events and to memorialize these events for our families and future generations within the ever-growing kingdom of God.


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

Vigilant obedience to Torah

Demonstrating obedience to God’s Word takes resolve and commitment.

Demonstrating obedience to God’s Word takes resolve and commitment.

Nehemiah 13:1-3 – At that time the book of Moses was read publicly to the people. The command was found written in it that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, because they did not meet the Israelites with food and water. Instead, they hired Balaam against them to curse them, but our God turned the curse into a blessing. When they heard the law, they separated all those of mixed descent from Israel.

At first reading, this type of action by Nehemiah and his reformers can seem harsh and unjustified. Separating people from the assembly of Israel due only to their racial descent grates against our modern perspective on race and inclusion. Was it true that someone could be excluded from the civil life of Israel simply because of their ethnicity?

First, we have to realize that Israel was to be a pure, holy, and set apart people. They were to be distinct from all others and could only maintain that distinction if they did not intermarry with other nations. This was a direct command of God through Moses that had been forsaken in the days of Nehemiah:

Deuteronomy 7:1, 3-4, 6 – “When Yahweh your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess, and he drives out many nations before you​ … You must not intermarry with them, and you must not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, because they will turn your sons away from me to worship other gods. Then Yahweh’s anger will burn against you, and he will swiftly destroy you. … “For you are a holy people belonging to Yahweh your God. Yahweh your God has chosen you to be his own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.”

While avoiding contamination from idolatrous worship was the primary reason for their separation, in the present case, Nehemiah was quoting another portion of the law of Moses where they were directed to exclude the Moabites and Ammonites specifically from ever joining in the civil life of the community, due to those tribes’ resistance to assist Israel in their wilderness journeys.

Deuteronomy 23:3-4, 6 – “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter Yahweh’s assembly; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, may ever enter Yahweh’s assembly. “This is because they did not meet you with food and water on the journey after you came out of Egypt, and because Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram-naharaim was hired to curse you. … “Never pursue their welfare or prosperity as long as you live.

So it appears that ethnic descent could bar someone from participating in the civil life of an Israelite. But so could having a physical deformation or being born outside of marriage.

Deuteronomy 23:1-2 – “No man whose testicles have been crushed or whose penis has been cut off may enter Yahweh’s assembly. “No one of illegitimate birth may enter Yahweh’s assembly; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, may enter Yahweh’s assembly.”

The command to be excluded from the assembly has been variously interpreted to mean marriage, to participating in the leadership of the Israelite community, or to mean total and complete excommunication. But the word used here means to separate, or to set apart as distinct. It is also used of God separating light from darkness, the Levites being set apart from the rest of the Israelites, the veil separating the ark in the holy of holies from the rest of the temple, the cities of refuge being set apart from the rest of the towns of Israel, and Israel themselves being set apart from all other nations.

I find it interesting that all of the conditions of separation have nothing to do with the free will choice of the individual in question; therefore they could not be held spiritually accountable for a condition which they had no control of, such as the conditions surrounding the marital status of their parents at birth, their physical deformities, or their racial heritage. Being identified as distinct from the assembly of Yahweh was a condition of separation only for temporary time within the nation of Israel’s history for the sake of teaching an eternal lesson about purity, holiness, and vigilance.

As we have seen, the Bible is filled with distinctions being made between all types of places and individuals, and this appears to me to be another one of those instances. To me, the command does not appear so much a punishment on those who were to be excluded, but a test for the faithful to see if they would abide by God’s command.

Consider the vigilance needed to physically remove individuals from the core life of the community who had families, jobs, and responsibilities within the congregation of Israel. This would require a deep commitment to honoring the Torah of God above those relationships. This is akin to the level of commitment that Yeshua spoke of when it comes to removing the mechanisms of sin from within one’s own life.

Matthew 5:29-30 – “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna. “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into Gehenna.

Ultimately, all who would demonstrate sincere worship of Yahweh would be honored by him. Isaiah spoke of the time of the Messianic kingdom when anyone truly seeking Yahweh would have the ability and freedom to do so, specifically mentioning foreigners and eunuchs who were formerly to be separated.

Isaiah 56:3-8 – No foreigner who has joined himself to Yahweh should say, “Yahweh will exclude me from his people,” and the eunuch should not say, “Look, I am a dried-up tree.” For Yahweh says this: “For the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, and choose what pleases me, and hold firmly to my covenant, “I will give them, in my house and within my walls, a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give each of them an everlasting name that will never be cut off. “As for the foreigners who join themselves to Yahweh to minister to him, to love the name of Yahweh, and to become his servants — all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold firmly to my covenant — “I will bring them to my holy mountain and let them rejoice in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” This is the declaration of Yahweh GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel: “I will gather to them still others besides those already gathered.”

The Israelites had to practice “tough love” and vigilance of separation in order to abide by the Torah that applied to them in their day. God was preserving the purity of the congregation until the kingdom of Messiah would arrive, and once that occurred, the physical lineages and distinctions would no longer retain the same significance.

Galatians 3:28 – There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.

For anyone in Messiah, the barriers would be broken down and all would be honored in him. But those spiritual lessons regarding vigilance and purity would remain for eternity.


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.

God’s will is the purity of his people

Believers must maintain their faithfulness to God in order to remain pure for his purpose.

Believers must maintain their faithfulness to God in order to remain pure for his purpose.

1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7 – For this is God’s will, your sanctification: … For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness.

As Paul is writing to the Thessalonian congregation, he is reminding them of their high calling to purity.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 – Additionally then, brothers, we ask and encourage you in the Master Yeshua, that as you have received instruction from us on how you should live and please God ​– ​as you are doing ​– ​do this even more. For you know what commands we gave you through the Master Yeshua.

Paul’s objective is that the Thessalonians would live and walk in a way that pleases God. Even though they had been doing so, he is encouraging them further to refrain from the impurity of the accepted culture around them and specifically the “lustful passions” of those who didn’t know God.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 – For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you keep away from immorality of idolatry, that each of you knows how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passions, like those of the nations, who don’t know God. This means one must not transgress against and take advantage of a brother in this manner, because Yahweh is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you. For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness.

We can learn from this that some of the cultural permissiveness may have begun seeping into the congregation, as Paul warns them not to conduct these types of offenses between themselves as members of the assembly. Many Bible versions will relate this offense as some type of sexual promiscuity; however, the word can also mean whoredom, in the sense of immoral idolatrous practices, as related here. As stated many times before, God views idolatry as a type of spiritual harlotry, since when it is practiced the people are substituting the covenant bond of Yahweh for another god, and thereby committing adultery against him.

1 Thessalonians 4:8 – Consequently, anyone who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who gives you his holy Spirit.

Paul strengthens his warning by saying God is an avenger of these practices, and to participate in these worldly activities is to reject the very holy Spirit of God.

From this, we can learn that if we are sincere in following the commands of God as followers of the Master Yeshua, we likewise have an obligation to resist the permissiveness of the culture we live in, since it is God’s will (or his intention, determination, and desire) that we be holy, set apart as pure and clean for his purpose. If we take lightly this responsibility and we fall into the seductive lair of cultural acceptance, we are dishonoring the name of the One who has called us to be his own. Our distinctiveness and usefulness as salt and light is diminished because we neglected to put our light on the lampstand and instead have hid it under a bushel. We have lost our saltiness and are good for no purpose of God except to be thrown out into the street to be crushed under the foot traffic.

Succumbing to the permissiveness of our culture robs us of our power in representing God to a world who needs to know him. We must sacrifice our own desires for the desires of God, and his desire and will is that we remain holy and set apart. This is God’s ultimate will for anyone who places their faith in him through Messiah, and he empowers us through his holy Spirit to do so.


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.

Vigilance in remaining pure

After coming to the truth, we need to continue in the truth.

2 Peter 3:13-15 – But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation…

This admonition of Peter to “those who have received a like faith as ours,” (2 Peter 1:1) is to remain vigilant in pursuing a spotless and blameless life, and by remaining on guard to not be carried away by rebellious men.

The spotlessness he speaks of hearkens back to the idea of the perfection of the sacrificial animal who was to be entirely clean and whole, or without defect.

Numbers 6:14 – “‘He shall present his offering to Yahweh: one male lamb a year old without defect for a burnt offering and one ewe-lamb a year old without defect for a sin offering and one ram without defect for a peace offering…”

This motif sets the principle in place that the believers were to view themselves as set apart like the sacrifices of the old covenant, remaining acceptable to God because of their wholeness in purity.

Other examples of this type of purity were encouraged by Paul to Timothy, along with the apostle James.

1 Timothy 6:12-14 – “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Messiah Yeshua, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Yeshua Messiah…”

James 1:27 – “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

1 Peter 1:18-19 – “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah.”

So Peter says the believers were to be found spotless, without any spot, stain, or blemish and also to be blameless. This can also be translated as unblameable, in the sense that their lives should be so exemplary that they could not be truly accused of defilement at any time. They were to be diligently pursuing this spotlessness and unblameable-ness so that they might be living in peace or tranquil assurance of their position before God.

Can that be said of believers today? Are we in vigilant pursuit of keeping ourselves from being stained by this world as James admonishes? If we were to be a sacrificial animal in ancient Israel, could we be selected as a substitutionary sacrifice because of our wholeness and purity?

Some might say, “I am in Messiah, therefore I am holy and blameless in him.” That may indeed be the case; however, that reality for believers today is not without responsibility to also continue to diligently walk in paths of undefilement and to remain in that state since we have come to know him and believe in him.

2 Peter 3:17-18 – “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand [i.e., that the patience of the Yahweh is salvation], be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of rebellious men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Yeshua Messiah..”

Too many people today claim to know him and yet don’t walk after him, believing that his cleansing of our sin is all they need and they can continue to live as they choose, or they excuse their licentiousness with false grace. These are those who have been “carried away by the error of rebellious men” as Peter concludes, and no longer walk according to the whole truth, only the part they want to, because it suits their preferences.

To those who have dropped their guard and fallen from steadfastness, who believe they are justified even in their continued waywardness and lack of discipline, I can only present the words of Yeshua:

Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”


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.

Peace-sowers amidst the chaos

The fruit of righteousness is borne of peaceful actions.

James 3:18 – And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.

James writes that peace is a necessity among the believers. Taken in the context of to whom this letter was written, this is bold exhortation, indeed. These were the twelve tribes scattered among the nations, and believers who were currently undergoing persecution for their faith in Messiah.

James 1:2-3 – Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

To these believers undergoing harsh testing and being judged and challenged by their brothers and their families, James encourages peace. It was not the believer’s place to reflexively react to oppression and disunity around them. James encourages calmness at every turn as a demonstration of the righteous actions of God.

James 1:19-20 – My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.

The righteousness of God, according to James, is based on the wisdom of God.

James 3:13-14, 17 – Who among you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct he should show that his works are done in the gentleness that comes from wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and deny the truth. … But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.

James is encouraging gentleness in the pursuit of righteousness. God’s wisdom is “pure and peace-loving.” This is an echo of the words of Yeshua when he pronounced how the peacemakers would be considered children of God (Matthew 5:9). Contextually, Yeshua’s teaching on peacemaking is also in the context of persecution:

Matthew 5:10-12 – “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. “Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

As believers, we can only exhibit true peace and gentleness when confronted with their opposites. When all is peaceful and calm, there is no admonition needed to peacemaking. However, when all is chaos, bitterness and unforgiveness, to remain a peacemaker in these environments becomes a testimony to the inward righteousness one has from God. This is where the believer becomes a witness to the truth of God’s wisdom. This is why James can say that “fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.”

To be able to sow peace in tumultuous circumstances, one must be a cultivator of peace. This is a bedrock of the believing life, since there is no need to exacerbate chaos further. If we are looking for ways to bear fruit for
God, we should be looking for ways to sow seeds of peace into the fray of the daily culture we live in. Thereby, God’s wisdom is shown to be the pure truth that it is, and he will be glorified in those cultivators of peace that obey his word.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

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

The rebellious way of righteousness

Living faithfully according to God’s instruction at all times.

Psalm 26:1-3 – Vindicate me, Yahweh, because I have lived with integrity and have trusted in Yahweh without wavering. Test me, Yahweh, and try me; examine my heart and mind. For your faithful love guides me, and I live by your truth.

This psalm is attributed to David, and when reading it, it seems as if David is almost lifting himself up in God’s eyes, saying, “look how good I am, Yahweh.”
In a sense, he is. He is conveying how his conscience is clear before God, and because this is the case, he is requesting that God vindicate him or judge righteously in his favor against those who would come against him.

Psalm 26:9-10 – Do not destroy me along with sinners, or my life along with men of bloodshed in whose hands are evil schemes and whose right hands are filled with bribes.

This is brought out more vividly in another psalm of David where he declares his innocence, and then pleas for God’s protection due to his own faithfulness and virtue.

Psalm 17:3, 8-14 – You have tested my heart; you have examined me at night. You have tried me and found nothing evil; I have determined that my mouth will not sin. … Protect me as the pupil of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who treat me violently, my deadly enemies who surround me. They are uncaring; their mouths speak
arrogantly. They advance against me; now they surround me. They are determined to throw me to the ground. They are like a lion eager to tear, like a young lion lurking in ambush. Rise up, Yahweh! Confront him; bring him down. With your sword, save me from the wicked. With your hand, Yahweh, save me from men, from men of the world whose portion is in this life…

While believers in Messiah are commanded by Yeshua to have pure hearts (Matthew 5:8) and walk in the light and not in the darkness of this world (John 8:12) these cherished qualities are by no means insulation from all wickedness in the world.

Consider the plight of Job, a man who was considered righteous before God.

Job 1:1 – There was a man in the country of Uz named Job. He was a man of complete integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil.

And yet disaster upon disaster came upon him. One of his companions, Eliphaz, even related this confidence as Job’s hope within himself:

Job 4:6 – Isn’t your piety your confidence, and the integrity of your life your hope?

The issue is not how righteous a person is, whether imagined or in reality, but in how faithful they are in the face of all adversity. David had a clear conscience before God, and yet was persecuted by Saul and the nations surrounding Israel. Job was a man of complete integrity and yet suffered so much trouble that his very name has become synonymous with the concept of adversity.

Yeshua himself suffered the highest injustice of all, and maintained, to the death, his focus on the higher purpose of God. All of these men persevered in their integrity and faithfulness, never losing hope in the God who would ultimately vindicate them, and he did.

We are expected to walk in pureness of heart and in the light of God’s instruction, yet we should never assume that because we do that we are then somehow immune from adversity in this life. Granted, the way of the righteous is ultimate design for those who bear God’s image in this world. And yet due to the wayward passions of those around us, we can expect that this way of righteousness will be resisted and pushed back on.

2 Timothy 3:12 – In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.

This reality should not dissuade the believer from doing what’s right at all times but should only establish and encourage this conduct in the face of it. We must rebel against the wickedness of this world by living faithfully according to God’s instruction at all times and in all situations. This behavior then becomes the rebellious way of righteousness.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

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

The necessity of faith in having a good conscience

Sincerity before God provides confidence in actions.

1 Timothy 1:5 – Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

The idea of conscience is an interesting concept that can become a safeguard in our own journey of faith. The Greek underlying term can be translated literally as “co-perception,” this idea of some sort of conscious agreement within oneself to certain standards. It is this internal agreement which provides confidence of correctness in spiritual understanding.

2 Corinthians 1:12 – Indeed, this is our boast: The testimony of our conscience is that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you, with godly sincerity and purity, not by human wisdom but by God’s grace.

According to Scripture, the conscience is not something completely constrained to human wisdom, but somehow sits as an arbiter of acceptability when it comes to matters of right action. It is appealed to as a standard, yet it is a standard that can be damaged or disregarded when not combined with faith in God.

Titus 1:15 – …to those who are defiled and nonbelieving nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled.
1 Timothy 1:19 – …[have] faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and have shipwrecked their faith.
1 Timothy 4:1-2 – …some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of other gods; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

However, when nourished on biblical principles and combined with faith in God, the conscience can serve as a helper along the path of navigating right and wrong actions. Our goal should be to encourage righteous actions by maintaining clear, faith-filled consciences in the sight of God and men.

Hebrews 13:18 – Pray for us, for we are convinced that we have a clear conscience, wanting to conduct ourselves honorably in everything.
Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

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

David’s recipe for righteousness

We should honor God with purity of heart.

Psalm 101:1-4 – I will sing of faithful mercy and of right judgments; to you, O Yahweh, I will sing.
I will study the way that is blameless. When shall I attain it?
I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is base [Belial].
I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
Perverseness [twisted, distorted] of heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.

This psalm is attributed to David, and as such, it would seem that he set standards for himself that would cause him to be known as a man after God’s own heart. Each of these few verses speak to a way of maintaining and kindling purity of heart, which Yeshua mentioned would be a requirement of those who seek God.

Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

David himself also extolled the virtues of those who are pure of heart.

Psalm 24:3-5 – Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not appealed to what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

In Psalm 101, David lays out some general, practical principles that we can consider in our walk of righteousness.

“I will sing of faithful mercy and of right judgments; to you, O Yahweh, I will sing.” Firstly, David mentions the power of song and singing to Yahweh. Recounting beloved hymns of faith that are correct in doctrine is a key way of meditating on God’s faithful mercy and of his correct judgments. Honoring God in song, even singing softly to oneself or listening to music that honors him can keep the mind focused on him throughout the day.

“I will study the way that is blameless. When shall I attain it?” David expresses his eagerness for learning the way of righteousness. Meditating on God’s Word throughout the day keeps one’s heart in a place of right action when confronted with the challenges that present themselves.

“I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.” He mentions his distaste for the lack of passion for Yahweh exhibited by those who sway from the path. Not that he would not have anything to do with them, but that their reluctance to maintain the right way is a characteristic that he does not want to be associated with himself.

“Perverseness of heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.” The Hebrew term maintains that a heart that is twisted or distorted from the wisdom of God is considered perverse; he wants nothing to do with it. To know nothing of evil is to resist exposing oneself to the negative influences of the culture around us, whether on social media or in the workplace. Resisting the distortion of evil is a requirement for maintaining purity of heart.

“I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is base.” Even in the privacy of his home, David commits that he would not yield to the temptation to focus on something in secret that he would not be open to participate in in the presence of other believers.

The word for anything that is base is the word Belial, well-known in the annals of Scripture for that which draws one away from God.

Deuteronomy 13:13 – Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which you have not known…
1 Samuel 2:12 – Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they did not know Yahweh.

Paul speaks of this unequal yoking of believers with unbelievers, those of Belial:

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 – Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols?

Paul then quotes a collection of beautiful Old Testament passages illustrating how believers in Messiah are the temple of the living God.

2 Corinthians 6:16-18 – What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

As we recount our position in Messiah, we should honor God with this same purity of heart that radiates from within his temple. By following the example of David and the outline of purity of heart that he provides, we can fulfill our role in this generation of being examples of righteousness to others.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

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

Purity of heart through purposeful focus

Gaining the ability to be holy examples in our generation.

Philippians 4:8 – Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable ​– ​if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy ​– ​meditate on these things.

To meditate on here means to consider, take into account, weigh, reason, deliberate inwardly. Paul is encouraging believers to continually be reviewing purity of thought to provide the best results in mastering the walk of righteousness in holiness.

In a similar admonition, Paul uses another term: renewing of the mind.

Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

One of the keys to holiness that the apostle Paul conveys to the congregations is the need for focusing on righteousness. Our minds our powerful and the focus of our attention is the very thing that God desires. As we focus on righteousness and purity of thought, we can be transformed and become separated for God’s purpose. However, when we are distracted and sidetracked by pointless trivial occurrences throughout the day, we can lose sight of what’s really important in God’s eyes.

“…as thought makes deeds, and thought and deeds make character, so character makes destiny, here and hereafter. If you have these blessed thoughts in your hearts and minds, as your continual companions and your habitual guests, then, my friend, you will have a light within that will burn all independent of externals; and whether the world smiles or frowns on you, you will have the true wealth in yourselves; ‘a better and enduring substance.’ You will have peace, you will be lords of the world, and having nothing yet may have all. No harm can come to the man who has laid up in his youth, as the best treasure of old age, this possession of these thoughts enjoined in [this] text [Philippians 4:8].”

– Alexander MacLaren

The same word used for meditating on these things in the Philippian epistle is also used by Paul to the Roman congregation in a similarly impactful character-building verse:

Romans 6:11-12 – So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires.

Considering and meditating on the fact that we as believers are dead to sin and alive to God provides the practical ability to overcome the sin that reigns in our fleshly bodies; this allows us to gain mastery over sin and thereby to remain holy and set apart.

It is not without good reason that in his divinely-ordained wisdom Solomon uttered the following proverb:

Proverbs 4:23 – Guard your heart above all else, for it is the well-spring of life.

By meditating on purity of thought and beautiful things that God provides, we can have the ability to maintain the strength of character that God requires of his people to be examples of righteousness and holiness to every generation.

Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

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