The steep price of holiness and purity of heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They also demonstrated “peace and joy”:

  • They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts

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

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

And the end result was:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The simplicity of compassion

God is not seeking our religiosity, but our practical, personal sacrifices on behalf of others.

God is not seeking our religiosity, but our practical, personal sacrifices on behalf of others.

  • Matthew 5:7 – “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Yeshua encourages believers to demonstrate compassion to others, to assist those who do not have the ability to help themselves. In so doing, he affirms, a universal principle of recompense is enacted and put into play. In the process of being helpful to others by sacrificing of your own time and resources, the blessing of Yahweh becomes evident in your life.

One of my favorite passages that is meant to illustrate the true meaning of something that had been reduced to a religious rite is contained in the prophecy of Isaiah. The Israelites had become so enamored with their own traditions that they had lost sight of the bigger picture of God’s purpose. They had adopted various forms and repetitions of fasting in order to appear penitent before God when in fact, they had merely been demonstrating a hypocritical display of false piety.

Isaiah, therefore, speaking for Yahweh, calls them out for it and in the process demonstrates the real types of sacrifice that Yahweh is looking for to be exhibited among his people.

  • Isaiah 58:5-8 – “Will the fast I choose be like this: A day for a person to deny himself, to bow his head like a reed, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to Yahweh? Isn’t this the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood? Then your light will appear like the dawn, and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and Yahweh’s glory will be your rear guard.”

We see in this passage two primary objectives: to show the Israelites the true type of sacrificial mercy that God desires, and the resulting blessing that stems from actions that are sincerely based on the welfare of others.

Yeshua boiled all of this down to the simple admonition: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” When we enact his simple counsel, we live out God’s purpose and are then privileged to live within his blessing.


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

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

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

Refusing the allure of coveting

The command to not covet may be the root command guiding all of our interactions with anything, or anyone, outside of ourselves.

The command to not covet may be the root command guiding all of our interactions with anything, or anyone, outside of ourselves.

  • Exodus 20:17 – Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

This command comes as the very last instruction of the Ten Commandments. And yet, wise men and rabbis over the millennia have commented that it may be the most significant commandment of the ten, as it relates to everything we do in life.

Let’s examine this a little closer. If we view the Ten Commandments in two  sections, we can put the first five under one heading: “Commands that apply to God and his authority.” The second five can come under the the heading, “Integrity in interacting with others.”

We can see how abiding by the tenth commandment will reduce or eliminate our violation of commands 6-9. If we don’t covet, we are less likely to murder someone to get what they have. We will not seek adulterous relationships with other wives or husbands because we are not coveting or desiring them. We will not steal because we are not coveting things we don’t have. We are less likely to bear false witness against someone else or lie for selfish motives because we are not coveting.

As for the first five commandments, if we are not coveting just any type of spiritual experience, we can truly seek God only, and no other. We will not be led astray by the seductive nature of idolatry. We will not take his name in vain only to leverage our relationship with God for our own personal gain. We will not violate the Sabbath for personal gain, and we will abide by the God-given authority of our parents instead of believing we know what’s best for our own personal benefit.

Coveting does indeed seem to be at the root of all that is contrary to God and his purposes. In fact, prior to being mentioned in the Bible narrative at Sinai, the only other time the Hebrew root word is used is in relation to the trees of Eden.

  • Genesis 2:9 – Yahweh God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
  • Genesis 3:6 – The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

This pleasing appearance and desire for obtaining forbidden wisdom is the root of coveting, and Eve fell prey to its seductive allure. From this action has flowed everything contrary to God’s purpose in this world.

By contrast, the person of integrity stands against covetousness and everything that grows out of wicked desires for that which we do not have. The apostle John calls this covetous desire the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride.

  • 1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world ​– ​the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions ​– ​is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.

If we are to do the will of God, it is to let these covetous desires go, and to seek to simply serve him in humility and in truth. It is to do the opposite of coveting: to give and bestow good will on all those around us. It is to consider the needs of others above our own, thereby eliminating our selfish desires.

Therefore, if you must covet something, crave and desire to only do what’s right in God’s eyes.

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

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

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

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

The actions and mindset of the Kingdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Following the examples of righteousness lived by Noah and Abraham

When we walk before God with integrity and righteousness, we are living by faith in a way that pleases him.

Core of the Bible podcast #87 – Following the examples of righteousness lived by Noah and Abraham

Today we will be looking at the topic of integrity, and how when we walk before God with integrity and righteousness, we are living by faith in a way that pleases him.

Genesis 6:9 – This is the account of Noah and his descendants. Noah was a righteous man; he was blameless in his generation. He walked habitually with God.

From this description of Noah, we can begin to paint a portrait of what type of person pleases God. Noah was righteous, blameless, and walked with God as a way of life. By looking at each of these characteristics, we can draw some application for our own lives as we seek to honor and magnify God as his representatives in this world.

Noah is remembered most famously for building an ark and surviving a great flood. But most people don’t realize he is the first person in the Bible to be named as righteous. The Hebrew word for righteous is tsaddik. A tsaddik is a person who is considered just and righteous in conduct and character. Other contexts of the word include describing someone who is upright, honest, virtuous, pious. It is a word commonly used of good kings or judges who faithfully dispense justice and fairness.

We need to discuss this idea of righteousness a little more in detail than the other characteristics of Noah because in most Christian circles today, righteousness is typically viewed as something that is only conferred on an individual from God, as a bestowal of a righteous state that they did not possess previously. This perspective comes largely from the apostle Paul writing about the legal aspect of of a theological term called imputed righteousness, as is typically pointed out using the example of Abraham who was accounted or considered righteous for his faith in God.

Romans 4:1-5 – What then will we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about ​– ​but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. Now to the one who works, pay is not credited as a gift, but as something owed. But to the one who does not work, but believes on him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited for righteousness.

Now from this passage has been built an entire theological framework known as justification by faith. This was the famous cry of the reformers of the Christian faith in the 16th and 17th centuries. John Calvin has been quoted as saying, “Justification by faith is the hinge on which all true religion turns.”

In current discussion today, Dr. Kevin McFadden of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary covers the salient points of this doctrine in his article, “10 Things You Should Know about Justification by Faith” posted last year at Crossway.com. Dr. McFadden writes:

“Imputation is an attempt to capture the truth of biblical statements like 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Here Paul does not mean that God actually made Christ a sinner but that he imputed our sin to Christ’s account, just as, in the parallel statement, he has imputed his own righteousness to our account.”

This type of inputting something into our account that wasn’t previously there was outlined centuries earlier by Martin Luther.

“Do you now see how faith justifies without works? Sin lingers in us, and God hates sin. A transfusion of righteousness therefore becomes vitally necessary. This transfusion of righteousness we obtain from Christ because we believe in Him.” (Commentary on Galatians 3:6)

In my humble opinion, the passage in 2 Corinthians 5 has less to do with “transfusions of righteousness” and “crediting accounts” and more with the responsibility of the believer’s actions, as this passage of Paul regarding becoming the righteousness of God parallels his conclusion earlier on in the chapter.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – For the love of Messiah compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If one died for all, then all died. And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised.

That is the point that Paul appears to be making. He is relating to his audience in Corinth that the fact that Messiah died in a representative way should then spur them on to live in a way that honors him: he died for others, therefore they should live for others by dying to themselves. In this way, they would become the righteousness of God, that is, the righteous-living people that God desired them to be.

When we take the imputed righteousness theory which is based on the characterization of righteousness being added to an account without it being actualized in behavior, the meaning of the word becomes, in a sense, masked. It implies someone can be considered righteous while not really being righteous; it is simply a way God chooses to view those who place their faith in him. According to this doctrine, because of a believer’s faith, God decides to declare them righteous (even though they are not) by substituting the sinless life of his own son, Yeshua, for the sinful life of the sinner. In essence, this idea of imputed righteousness is all about the legal and theoretical standing of an individual before God and not about what they do or how they actually live their lives.

But this is not what the Bible teaches about righteousness, or what the passage about Abraham really says. This kind of theoretical abstract thinking would have been foreign to early believers steeped in the concrete terminology and prose of the Hebraic Scriptures and culture. Even today, when we look at the source material in Genesis that the apostle Paul is quoting, the text says nothing about accounts or infusions, but simply says that Abraham believed God, specifically about his promise to make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky.

Genesis 15:2-6 – But Abram said, “Lord Yahweh, what can you give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? ” Abram continued, “Look, you have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house will be my heir.” Now the word of Yahweh came to him: “This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “Your offspring will be that numerous.” Abram believed Yahweh, and he considered it to him as righteousness.

The fact that Abraham simply believed what God told him was considered by God as an act of righteousness, not the change of some legal standing before him. We know Abraham was also considered a righteous individual because he was obedient to all of God’s revealed instruction, most likely oral at that point, just like it was with Noah. When God reiterated this promise of innumerable descendants to Abraham’s son Isaac, God states:

Genesis 26:4-5 – “I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky, I will give your offspring all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring, because Abraham listened to me and kept my mandate, my commands, my statutes, and my instructions.”

This statement helps define God’s view of righteousness. A righteous individual believes in the instruction of God (taking God at his word) and then obeys it. In God’s view, believing what he says, even though it may not yet be fulfilled, is an act of righteousness as valuable as any other act of obedience. It is the sign of ultimate trust which is considered by God as the action of a righteous person.

So, returning to the passage in Romans where Paul is explaining this event in Abraham’s life, in reality, I think what Paul was attempting to convey is the idea that faith in God is equally considered a righteous act, along with all other lawful, virtuous, honest, and upright actions according to the instruction of God. Therefore, faith in God and his Messiah is considered a righteous action. That would have been a revolutionary concept to his audience. The believers of Paul’s day knew that to be a tsaddik was to faithfully and obediently follow the torah (or instruction) of God that has been revealed. But to do this effectively, Paul argues, requires faith, a righteous action like any other obedient action.

Noah had believed that what God had revealed to him about a coming flood, even though it had not yet been fulfilled, was going to happen. He took it seriously and built a giant boat, rearranging his entire life and enterprise to commit to this faith in what God had said. There are few greater examples of what a living faith looks like.

For Noah, this would mean that out of all others in his generation or age, he was the individual who most closely matched the ideal that God had provided up to that point because of his faith and his actions based on that faith. While those in his day may not have had any written Scripture, there were undoubtedly oral teachings that had been passed from generation to generation since the days of Adam previously. And in God’s eyes, Noah was a tsaddik, a righteous individual, one who faithfully and continually walked with him. To walk with God in this sense is to live in a way that pleases him, to abide by his counsels and admonitions, to be familiar with God and his ways and to direct one’s own personal affairs in agreement with God’s. This is biblical righteousness.

Additionally, the text says that Noah was tamim or blameless. This is a Hebrew term that can mean what is complete, entirely in accord with truth and fact. Noah’s life was not a life of hidden agendas or misrepresentation for the sake of personal gain, but everything he did and said was based completely on truth and fact. Someone who is blameless has nothing to hide from those who would inquire into their background or motivations.

This is a life of integrity, and Yeshua described this concept in various ways throughout his ministry, and most notably in his Sermon on the Mount. For Yeshua, to live with integrity and righteousness meant to demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeded those who were merely following external commands, like the Pharisees and Sadducees. It meant to be a person of your word, simply saying yes or no, and doing what you say. It was defined as craving equity; thirsting for doing the right thing because it was personally and inwardly important. It included avoiding hypocrisy in judgment and practice, and to magnify God by letting your good deeds “shine.” And finally, Yeshua taught to conduct yourself with mildness and gentleness, and, if necessary, to endure harmful attacks of those who may not agree with your right actions. All of these things could essentially be said of Noah, which is why he was considered a tsaddik.

We would do well to follow in his footsteps among our generation, doing what’s right in the face of adversity and corruption around us. God may not task each of us with building a literal ark, but we should be just as mindful of our responsibility to “become the righteousness of God” by positively influencing those around us through our integrity and faithful obedience to God’s revealed word.


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

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

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

Experiencing real peace when we trust in God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The fruit of the heart

Our words and actions have real consequences in the world around us to influence for good or wickedness, to produce wisdom or foolishness.

Our words and actions have real consequences in the world around us to influence for good or wickedness, to produce wisdom or foolishness.

Throughout the Proverbs are numerous references to the speech of the wise, and how a righteous person is known by what they say or profess. In just the tenth chapter alone are some select verses that indicate how important and influential is the speech of the wise.

  • 11 – The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life
  • 13 – Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning
  • 20 – The tongue of the righteous is pure silver
  • 21 – The lips of the righteous feed many
  • 31 – The mouth of the righteous produces wisdom
  • 32 – The lips of the righteous know what is appropriate

By contrast, the mouths of the wicked and the foolish demonstrate the results of their perversity and foolishness.

  • 11 – the mouth of the wicked conceals violence
  • 13 – a rod is for the back of the one who lacks sense
  • 20 – the heart of the wicked is of little value
  • 21 – fools die for lack of sense
  • 31 – a perverse tongue will be cut out
  • 32 – the mouth of the wicked [speaks] only what is perverse

In just these few examples, it becomes readily apparent as to what are the benefits of righteous speech, and also the consequences of wicked and foolish chatter. This is especially relevant for those who claim to be followers of the Messiah, for he was very clear in teaching the importance of what people say.

Luke 6:45 – “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

The issue then becomes not how wise or foolish an individual is, but what is in the heart. The things that we say illustrate outwardly what our heart is concealing inwardly. This principle is so basic as to be almost an embarrassment of childlike instruction. The context of this teaching of Yeshua is placed in the midst of this teaching on what he calls the “fruit” of the heart.

Luke 6:43-44 – “A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit…”

The flipside to this principle is carried forward in the continuing teaching of Yeshua in this passage, as the secondary aspect of this fruit of the heart is applied toward actions.

Luke 6:46-49 – “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great.”

So, the balance is not just what we say, but do our actions line up with our speech? Yeshua rightly questions the sincerity of those who claim with their lips to be obedient disciples, yet they do not carry out his teachings in their lifestyles: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?”

This question of our Messiah and Lord leaps across the millennia to our day and age and into the relevance of our daily actions, as well. In the words of Solomon’s proverbs, could our speech be considered a fountain of life? Is it the pure silver of wisdom that satisfies the needs of those who hunger for truth? Is it appropriate at all times so that it produces wisdom in others?

Are these the things that are in our hearts and overflowing to all others, or something else? Either way, according to Yeshua, the things we say and do will reveal the true contents of our hearts for all others to see.


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

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

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

Keeping to the good paths

As believers abiding within the words of Yahweh and his Messiah, we conduct ourselves in well-worn paths that have been cut by our spiritual forefathers.

As believers abiding within the words of Yahweh and his Messiah, we conduct ourselves in well-worn paths that have been cut by our spiritual forefathers.

Proverbs 2:20-22 – So follow the way of the good, and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will inhabit the land, and those of integrity will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous ripped out of it.

The way of the good and the paths of the righteous were found in the keeping of the commands of God. We can know this because the penalty for not remaining in those paths would result in removal from the land. When Moses had charged the people of Israel with faithfulness to Yahweh, he outlined very specific results that would occur from either obedience to the law, or rejection of it.

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 – “Now if you faithfully obey Yahweh your God and are careful to follow all his commands I am giving you today, Yahweh your God will put you far above all the nations of the earth. “All these blessings will come and overtake you, because you obey Yahweh your God…”

He then goes on to list a host of physical blessings inclusive of bountiful harvests and peace in the land. However, if they were to reject the law, there would be many horrific things that would be applied to their forfeiture of the covenant; most prominently, that they would be removed from the land he was allowing them to inhabit.

Deuteronomy 28:15; 63-64 – “But if you do not obey Yahweh your God by carefully following all his commands and statutes I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overtake you:…”Just as Yahweh was glad to cause you to prosper and to multiply you, so he will also be glad to cause you to perish and to destroy you. You will be ripped out of the land you are entering to possess. Then Yahweh will scatter you among all peoples from one end of the earth to the other, and there you will worship other gods, of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.”

This was a common theme all throughout the Old Testament writings. Removal from the land was to be the the sign of, and penalty for, their disobedience to the commands of God. When Israel did fall to the Assyrians in 721 BC and again to the Babylonians in 587 BC, the captives were carried off to the nations, and the prophetic curse of Moses came to pass. Jeremiah recounts the distress of the faithful over the loss of their identity:

Lamentations 2:9, 15, 17 – Zion’s gates have fallen to the ground; he has destroyed and shattered the bars on her gates. Her king and her leaders live among the nations, instruction is no more, and even her prophets receive no vision from Yahweh. … All who pass by scornfully clap their hands at you. They hiss and shake their heads at Daughter Jerusalem: Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth? … Yahweh has done what he planned; he has accomplished his decree, which he ordained in days of old. He has demolished without compassion, letting the enemy gloat over you and exalting the horn of your adversaries.

Even when they returned to the land later that century, they never fully regained a solid independence and ended up remaining vassals to Egypt, Greece, and finally Rome. Upon their rejection of their true Anointed One, the Messiah in the person of Yeshua, this was the ultimate refusal to obey the God of their fathers. The temple was therefore destroyed and the nation was once for all finally disassembled and scattered among the nations for all time. This was to be, of course, since God had something much more wonderful planned for those who would demonstrate faithfulness with him.

After listing the righteous and faithful examples of believers such as Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham, the writer of Hebrews expresses how they never actually received what was promised and they always considered themselves sojourners in a land that was not really theirs.

Hebrews 11:13-16 – These all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. But they now desire a better place ​– ​a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Even after recounting the events in the lives of Isaac, Jacob and his offspring, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, the writer is convinced that even though these had indeed lived in and inherited the actual physical land that God had promised them, they still had not received the true promise of God: a heavenly dwelling.

Hebrews 11:39-40 – All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.

In Messiah, the promise was accomplished. The transition from an earthly land and kingdom was finalized into a spiritual land and heavenly capital city of the New Jerusalem.

Hebrews 12:22-25 – Instead [of the fiery dread of Mount Sinai], you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels, a festive gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to a Judge, who is God of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, and to Yeshua, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which says better things than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not reject the one who speaks. For if they did not escape when they rejected him who warned them on earth, even less will we if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven.

This promise to those first-century believers holds true to this day. If we continue to walk in the good ways, the paths of righteousness, we will remain within the promised inheritance, the heavenly city of Jerusalem. Living with integrity according to the words of Yahweh will guard and protect those within the well-worn and clearly defined paths of righteousness. It is up to us to abide in him by remaining obedient to his words.

Proverbs 2:6-11 – For Yahweh gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up success for the upright; He is a shield for those who live with integrity so that he may guard the paths of justice and protect the way of his faithful followers. Then you will understand righteousness, justice, and integrity ​– ​every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will delight you. Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you.

  • John 12:44, 49 – Yeshua cried out, “The one who believes in me believes not in me, but in him who sent me. … “For I have not spoken on my own, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a command to say everything I have said.
  • John 14:21 – “The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.”

Since the words of Yeshua are the words of Yahweh, we can have every confidence that as we faithfully follow the Messiah, we are abiding within the true paths of righteousness.


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

Maintaining integrity with God’s help

Psalm 141:4 – Incline not my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity; and let me not eat of their delicacies!

Throughout this psalm, the Psalmist pleads with Yahweh to assist him in maintaining the right course of action in his heart and in what he says at all times. He does not want to be swept away by the actions of the wicked and counted among them; in fact, he prays that their own wickedness would find them out!

Psalm 141:8-9 – But my eyes are toward thee, O Yahweh God; in thee I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless! Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me, and from the snares of evildoers!

He pleads that he would not be defenseless against the lure of wickedness, or by any of the traps they may have set in his way. This hunger and passionate desire for integrity should be the heart cry of every believer.

The good news for believers today is that we do have a “defense system” against wickedness when we choose to abide in the Word of God: the holy Spirit of God himself.

1 John 2:26-27 – I write this to you about those who would deceive you; but the anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him.

1 John 3:24 – All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.

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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

Bonding ourselves to God through compassionate generosity

When we help those in need, it is as if we are binding ourselves together with God himself.

It is well documented within the word that God desires that those who have ability should lend to those in need.

  • Psalm 37:25-26: “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his children begging for bread. All day long he deals graciously, and lends. His [the righteous one’s] offspring is blessed.”
  • Psalm 112:4-5: “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright, gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals graciously and lends. He will maintain his cause in judgment.”

Notice that in both instances the encouragement is to lend, not to give away. The word comes from the Hebrew root lavah, which means to be joined or twisted together, implying an obligation of a borrower still being joined to the lender until the money is repaid. This idea stems from the Torah command to be committed to assisting those who have either fallen on hard times or who could just use some assistance.

Leviticus 25:35 – “If your brother becomes destitute and cannot sustain himself among you, you are to support him as an alien or temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you.”

In the foregoing psalms, the concept of lending to those in need leads to blessings and positive outcomes for those who lend to others. In the proverbs, a fine example of this type of lending provides us further insight into why it is that these blessings and favorable outcomes occur.

Proverbs 19:17: “He who has pity on the poor lends to Yahweh; he will reward him.”

Once again, the word for lend here comes from the root lavah. The idea being conveyed with the intent of the original words seems to be that those who extend kindness to the poor are in actuality lending to, that is joining together with, Yahweh himself. Now, it is Yahweh who is then joined together with the lender, which ensures that the lender is “rewarded” (defined more accurately as “made whole.”) It’s as if God is guaranteeing the lender will be made whole in some way, even if the human recipient never repays the kindness bestowed. Based on this type of logic, when we are faithfully and sacrificially helping those in need, it is as if we are binding ourselves together with God himself in a sacred bond that remains in place until it is completed.

This should give a whole different meaning and emphasis to our generosity in helping others. When we provide help in this fashion, we are not only compassionately assisting our fellow human who may need some additional support, but we are working in harmony with the principles of the Creator of the universe who is intertwined in the transaction. He remains committed to ensuring we are made whole in some sense that can result in (according to the psalms) blessing, maintaining of our purpose, and light in the darkness. There is no “giving to get” something in return, but rather lending freely to others with a sense of communing in a relational way with God. Our generosity leads to others’ needs being met and we can then be blessed in ways that can only be understood as coming from the gracious hand of a loving God. When we provide for others from the heart, we are opening ourselves for an opportunity to be twisted together with God within his purpose. The outcome is up to him, but will always be something that we would qualify as a blessing or desirable outcome, even if it isn’t what we might expect. It shows up in ways that can only be defined as a life illuminated by the blessing of God. All of Psalm 112 defines what that looks like.

Psalm 112:1-10 – Praise Yahweh! How joyful are those who fear Yahweh and delight in obeying his commands. Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed. They themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will last forever. Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous. Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly. Such people will not be overcome by evil. Those who are righteous will be long remembered. They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust Yahweh to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly. They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor. The wicked will see this and be infuriated. They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away, their hopes thwarted.

Will the compassionate person of generosity experience all of these blessings? Perhaps, perhaps not; perhaps others not listed here. That’s not the point. The point is that when we are obedient to God’s word from the heart because we believe it is the right thing to do, he is faithful to honor that genuine obedience in any way he chooses; that’s his prerogative, because we have bound ourselves together with 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