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.

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

Vigilance in worship

It takes effort, consistency, and sacrifice to worship God in a way that he desires.

It takes effort, consistency, and sacrifice to worship God in a way that he desires.

Worship today has come to mean many different things to different people. For most, worship is what happens every Sunday at the local church building from 10:30 am to noon. The style of worship varies; some prefer traditional hymns in a quiet, classical style from the European Middle Ages; for others, it is a celebratory party-like atmosphere with flashy performances and contemporary, upbeat tunes. In yet other congregations, it is complete silence, waiting for God’s Spirit to move upon someone to speak and provide insights from God’s holy perspective.

In the Bible, we see that worship encompassed many of these different expressions. The priesthood of Israel had specific and intentional responsibilities within the service of the Temple that had grown and morphed over time. While their primary sacrificial duties were laid down by Moses, as the temple was established in the days of David and Solomon, we find that other duties relative to music and singing became established within the realm of the priestly worship.

1 Chronicles 23:1-5 – When David was old and full of days, he installed his son Solomon as king over Israel. Then he gathered all the leaders of Israel, the priests, and the Levites. The Levites thirty years old or more were counted; the total number of men was thirty-eight thousand by headcount. “Of these,” David said, “twenty-four thousand are to be in charge of the work on Yahweh’s temple, six thousand are to be officers and judges, four thousand are to be gatekeepers, and four thousand are to praise Yahweh with the instruments that I have made for worship.”

These traditions carried on throughout the years and became part of the Israelite priestly and liturgical environment. However, with the destruction of the second temple in 70 A.D., the earthly priesthood and the liturgy of the temple worship were abolished. There were no more proscribed rites or ceremonies for the people of God in relation to liturgical worship.

Now, don’t think that I am saying it is somehow wrong or misguided to continue to create songs or sing together to honor and praise God; that is not the point. In fact, believers in Messiah have been encouraged by Paul to do so.

Ephesians 5:18-20 – …be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to Yahweh, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Yeshua Messiah…

Rather, I am describing something that goes beyond any type of liturgical and sometimes mechanical praise toward to God. Even though the second temple was still standing in Paul’s day, God had provided him insights into the future of his Kingdom and the coming age. Paul knew that God was working a spiritual work among his people that would far surpass any physical representation or temple service that God could provide.

When it came to describing the type of worship that was acceptable to God, Paul naturally grabbed hold of a principle taught by Yeshua about what true worship in the service of God looks like:

Romans 12:1 – Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.

The believers who were presenting themselves, body and spirit, to God were the ones who were honoring the true spirit of worship that God desires. Yeshua had taught this same principle.

John 4:23-24 – “But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth.”

Living a life of sacrifice means diligently and consistently laying down our own desires at the feet of God and seeking to accomplish his purpose in our life. This is the path of believers in abiding in him, walking according to his commandments above the demands of the culture around them. To love Yahweh your God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, to truly do this, is to walk a sacrificial path of true worship that honors God and brings glory to his name. The new covenant is a martyr’s covenant; we must die to ourselves in order to live for him.

Matthew 16:24-25 – Then Yeshua said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it.

This is the heart of true worship: becoming a living sacrifice where every thought is captive to Messiah and every action is an action based on the love of God for all of his Creation. This is where true worship lies, not in the halls of music and self-performance, but in the quiet and determined attitude of self-sacrifice.


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

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

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

The sacrificial requirement of being a disciple

The cost of discipleship involves a practical outworking of love.

The cost of discipleship involves a practical outworking of love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Living, and dying, for others

Compassion and obedience are not just for this life only.

Compassion and obedience are not just for this life only.

John 10:14-15, 17-18 – I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. … For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”

In teaching his disciples of how he is to be likened to a good shepherd, Yeshua reveals how God had provided him the authority to not only lay his life down for the sheep, but to take it back up again. With this obvious reference to the resurrection, we gain a small but tremendously powerful insight into the compassion and obedience of the Son of God to his Father.

Yeshua’s connection with God was so close that the bond of obedience surpassed life itself. Yeshua had received the command of God that he would have the ability to take up his life on the other side of the grave. This demonstrated a huge measure of trust and confidence that Yeshua placed in his Father. He was to demonstrate a compassion so extreme on behalf of his brothers that it would cost him his life.

Yet he was to trust in the resurrection on the other side, and not for himself, but that God’s purpose would be completed through his resurrection. Yeshua was not simply trusting God that he would be restored to life for his own benefit, but that he was being restored to life for the benefit of others. He died for others and was restored to life for others. Everything about the death and resurrection of Yeshua was for others; it had nothing to do with his own personal survival for himself.

We don’t understand this principle enough. We struggle to grasp an obedience to God that is so complete that it willingly succumbs not only to death on behalf of others, but to continued service for others on the other side. That is what compassion looks like to God. It does not have any selfish ambition whatsoever, and yet when it is accomplished, God provides every honor and glory upon that individual.

I believe we have erred when we look to God for our own continued survival, that hoped-for eternal life, based on the fact that we believed in him and served him to the best of our ability during this life. Then we hope to enjoy peace and security for eternity, a kind of spiritual retirement allowing us to enjoy the privileges gained for sacrifices made during this life.

But this is not the message of the gospel. The good news of the kingdom is that we serve God and accomplish his purpose here and now, and we serve God there and accomplish his purpose then and there. Believing in God should never be about ourselves or our personal security. If we are following the example of our Messiah, it should always be about others; we should be constantly laying our lives down on behalf of others, dying to ourselves over and over again.

Romans 12:1 – 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.

This is what it means to be a living sacrifice. It is a dichotomy of two contradictory principles: a sacrifice is to die yet somehow remains alive. The believing life is one of paradox: living in a kingdom that exists in eternity, yet is present here and now; dying to ourselves yet living for God; existing in a world of darkness yet being a light to those around us. We are reconcilers of opposites, peacemakers of things that are at war with one another. Just like our Messiah obeyed in death and life, we are to remain obedient in dying to ourselves and living for him. The life that feeds on the resurrection power of the Messiah is a life of obedience and compassion.

1 John 3:14, 16 – We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. … By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.


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.

Trusting God for who He is, not what He can do for you

Is your salvation an unspoken condition of your trust in God?

Core of the Bible podcast #76 – Trusting God for who He is, not what He can do for you

Is your salvation an unspoken condition of your trust in God?

Today we will be looking at the topic of trust, and how true trust in God does not care for consequences, it only knows what’s true and right and cannot be dissuaded once it is fully embraced.

To help illustrate this principle, we can take a closer look at the story of Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego. For those who know their Bibles, the story is familiar.

When the Hebrews are captured by the Babylonians, they are taken captive, and the leading families are held in the king’s palace. The king has set up an idolatrous monument to himself and commanded that everyone in the area pay homage to it at a specific time, or be killed by being thrown into a furnace. These three prominent Hebrews with the Babylonian names of Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, being Torah-observant, know of course that God has commanded that idolatry is forbidden, and honoring of any other gods is an abomination to him.

Daniel 3:17-18 – “The God we worship can save us from you and your flaming furnace. But even if he doesn’t, we still won’t worship your gods and the gold statue you have set up.”

Their act of defiance enrages the king, and he does indeed throw them bound into the fiery furnace. But, to everyone’s amazement, they not only survive, but their bonds disappear and they are visited by a mysterious angelic individual while in the midst of the flames. The king commands them to come out, and not even their clothes or their hair has been singed or burned.

In response to their miraculous survival, the king, who just previously wanted all people to worship him and his idolatrous monument, now commands everyone to honor the one true God of the Hebrews.

Daniel 3:28-29 – “They trusted their God and refused to obey my commands. Yes, they chose to die rather than to worship or serve any god except their own. And I won’t allow people of any nation or race to say anything against their God.”

While there are many fascinating facets to this story, the essence of what it conveys is both practical and challenging. True trust in God does not care for consequences, it only knows what’s true and right and cannot be dissuaded once it is fully embraced. These men were not trusting God to save them, they were simply trusting God regardless of the outcome. This demonstrates that their trust was not in a hoped-for resolution, their trust was in God alone, whatever was to come of it, even if death resulted.

So, this situation begins to draw us toward our application for today: If you are a believer, why are you trusting God? Are you trusting him to save you from the flames of a fiery hell? What if, for his own purpose and glory, there was no guarantee that he would deliver you from that fate, would you still trust in him? What if when you die, you cease to exist; would you still trust in him today?

Now, most of you might say, “This isn’t a legitimate question, since a belief in God assumes a belief in life after death, and therefore you are setting up a false premise.” Well, I guess that’s fair. But if nothing else, then, try to think hypothetically as if there was no understanding of a heaven or hell or promise of some sort of conscious existence beyond this life. Would you still trust in God based on what he has revealed about himself? I believe a real trust in God would say yes. Real trust believes that God has revealed himself to us as the all-powerful Creator and Sustainer of the universe and he alone is Sovereign. Because this would be accepted as fact, regardless of any consequence, nothing should be able to dissuade that trust. It should have nothing to do with our personal condition or situation, or salvation, for that matter.

Some might say, why believe in a God who doesn’t give you what you want? Isn’t that the purpose of a belief in God, to gain his favor so you can have things go your way? Shouldn’t we believe in him so we don’t go to hell, so we can spend eternity with him? Those kinds of questions belie an undercurrent of self-centeredness masked with false humility that runs deep in this world, and even within the halls of Christendom, today.

If the God of the Bible truly is God of all, then whatever he chooses to do with his creatures and his Creation is up to him. He has demonstrated he won’t ever go against his own word, so he is not arbitrarily creating chaos at his own whim; however, what specifically occurs in each person’s life and how it fits into his overall purpose is not always clear to us. Sometimes deliverance glorifies him most, and sometimes sacrifice.

Cases of deliverance are still circulated among believers today, especially from the mission fields. What follows is a story that took place in Peru in recent decades. I found this story on a website that includes many different examples of recent Christian testimonies:

Julio, a young lay evangelist, had been threatened by a terrorist group. “You must stop preaching,” they said. “If you do not obey us, you will pay with your blood.”

This terrorist group had taken control of the area where Julio walks from town to town to preach. They had closed the police outstations and governed the region by their own rules. Any individual or group that would not cooperate with them was in danger.

Julio ignored the threats and continued his usual rounds, preaching in the small mountain churches and encouraging the believers. Again the terrorists warned Julio, and again he disregarded the threats against his life. The terrorists were outraged. “Our vengeance will be complete. We asked for your cooperation, and you disobeyed us. Now we will make an example of you,” they said.

A few days later Julio was ambushed and taken to the center of one of the larger towns in the area. A crowd gathered to witness the sentencing. The terrorists hoped that Julio’s fate would put fear into the hearts of Christians and perhaps even result in closing some churches.

Julio was tied to a chair and carried to the middle of the square. Sticks of dynamite were tied to each of his arms and legs. The fuses were lit as Julio began singing praises to God. Other Christians joined him in praise, encouraging him with songs about heaven.

Then came the miracle! Suddenly there was a loud boom as the dynamite exploded. The terrorists thought nothing would be left of Julio. But when the smoke cleared, there sat Julio unharmed and still singing praises to God! The terrorists were shocked. They were so overcome by fear that they ran away. At the same time, all the Christians were saying, “It’s a miracle of God!”

Julio left the square with the Christians. He continued his ministry in spite of persecution. He held firmly to the truth that Jesus gives strength to be courageous when needed.

Christian Testimonies – Protection in Peru (the-new-way.org)

Of course, the Bible contains stories of deliverance, like Paul escaping from Damascus, or Peter being set free from prison. But it also contains accounts of those giving the ultimate sacrifice for their faith, such as Stephen being stoned to death, or the apostle James who was killed by the sword at Herod’s direction. Just because someone is a believer is not a guarantee that nothing bad or tragic will ever happen to them. It’s all about what serves God’s purposes best, not the individual.

As a testament to this, a common classic work among Protestant orthodoxy is a book titled “Foxe’s book of Martyrs,” first published in 1563 by John Foxe, detailing primarily Catholic persecution of the Protestants. However, it also covers many stories telling of heroic courage and overcoming faith, stories of the grace of God that enabled men, women, and children to endure persecutions and often horrible deaths. To illustrate, here is an excerpt of some stories regarding persecutions of believing Christians while it was still an “outlaw” religion around the year 200 AD.

“The Fifth Persecution, Commencing with Severus, A.D. 192

Severus, having been recovered from a severe fit of sickness by a Christian, became a great favorer of the Christians in general; but the prejudice and fury of the ignorant multitude prevailing, obsolete laws were put in execution against the Christians. The progress of Christianity alarmed the pagans, and they revived the stale calumny of placing accidental misfortunes to the account of its professors, A.D. 192.

But, though persecuting malice raged, yet the Gospel shone with resplendent brightness; and, firm as an impregnable rock, withstood the attacks of its boisterous enemies with success. Tertullian, who lived in this age, informs us that if the Christians had collectively withdrawn themselves from the Roman territories, the empire would have been greatly depopulated.

Victor, bishop of Rome, suffered martyrdom in the first year of the third century, A.D. 201. Leonidus, the father of the celebrated Origen, was beheaded for being a Christian. Many of Origen’s hearers likewise suffered martyrdom; particularly two brothers, named Plutarchus and Serenus; another Serenus, Heron, and Heraclides, were beheaded. Rhais had boiled pitch poured upon her head, and was then burnt, as was Marcella her mother. Potainiena, the sister of Rhais, was executed in the same manner as Rhais had been; but Basilides, an officer belonging to the army, and ordered to attend her execution, became her convert.

Basilides being, as an officer, required to take a certain oath, refused, saying, that he could not swear by the Roman idols, as he was a Christian. Struck with surpsie, the people could not, at first, believe what they heard; but he had no sooner confirmed the same, than he was dragged before the judge, committed to prison, and speedily afterward beheaded.”

The Fifth Persecution, Commencing with Severus, A.D. 192 – Fox’s Book of Martyrs (biblestudytools.com)

These are just a few of the thousands of examples of courageous conviction throughout this single volume documenting these events. Faced with similar circumstances, would you have responded in like kind with these dedicated men and women?

Returning once again to our story in Daniel, what if God had chosen to abandon those three men in the furnace? Perhaps he could have decided that their perishing in light of their undying trust in him would have better served glorifying his name: three martyrs for Yahweh. It would still be a good story and they would still be honored as heroes of the faith. Yet God chose their miraculous preservation as a way of honoring their faith and converting a pagan king. That served his purpose better. Case in point: we’re still talking about the impact of this incident thousands of years later. It is still serving his purpose to this day.

Do you think those three men had stronger trust in God after that incident? I’m sure they were relieved, but to the point I am attempting to convey here, quite honestly, I believe that if they were asked about it, they would consider that an unnecessary, silly question. I believe they would say the point of their preservation was not to enhance their faith, but to enhance others’ faith by demonstrating God’s glory. As his glory was revealed, others came to know him.

Is your salvation an unspoken condition of your trust in God? Then you are believing in God for what he can do, not for who he is. As believers, we need to remove ourselves from the center of our own faith universe and make sure that we are recognizing and trusting God simply for who he is: God. We need to let him be God, and to unswervingly place our everything: our well-being, our lifestyle, our security, into his hands and let him accomplish his own purpose in his own way. The end result may not look like we expect it to, but it shouldn’t matter. We can be confident it will always be the outcome that best serves his purpose and provides him the most glory.

For me, I believe it would be a fitting testimony to the honor of God to have said about me what was said about those three brave Hebrew men: “he chose to die rather than to worship or serve any god except his own.”

We need to check where our trust is truly placed: in our salvation, or in the God who can provide that salvation. Place your trust in God for who he is, not for what he can do for you.


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.

Compassionate wisdom from above

Our primary example for how to live our lives is an example of unyielding compassion for others.

Our primary example for how to live our lives is an example of unyielding compassion for others.

James 3:13, 16-17 – 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. … For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, open to reason, full of compassion and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.

To be full of the “wisdom from above” is to be compassionate towards others. From this compassion comes good actions that are sincere. Yeshua honored the practice of mercy or compassion by relating how a life of mercy towards others will result in mercy shown back towards that individual.

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

That good and kind works follows a heart of mercy and compassion is evidenced by the believer from Joppa named Tabitha.

Acts 9:36 – In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which is translated Dorcas). She was always doing good works and acts of charity.

She had been instrumental in working hard to make and provide clothing for others in need, and had earned the respect of her peers and her community. The narrative relates how she had become ill and died, but because of her mercy toward others, a great miracle was performed through Peter in raising her from death; mercy had been shown toward her and her little community.

Compassion by its very nature indicates that kind actions are being performed towards others. As believers, we are commanded to be loving and helpful toward those in need. But in the passage above, James warns of the dangerous negative results which are obtained when people are instead selfish and envious of others. These qualities are the direct opposite of compassion. James relates how the out-workings of this destructive mindset are “disorder and every evil practice.”

Only by seeking the wisdom from above can we overcome a covetous and self-serving attitude. This wisdom was most dramatically displayed in the life of Messiah Yeshua, who willingly yielded his own will to the will of God, and in the process exemplified the ultimate measure of compassion amidst the tumultuous backlash of both the religious and political systems of his day. If we truly claim to be his followers, it is our obligation to do likewise by having the same sacrificial mindset on behalf of others, even amidst the tumultuous generation of our own day. The wisdom of demonstrating compassion is always a personal sacrifice that is acceptable to God and will result in mercy being presented back toward those who practice it sincerely and with a pure heart.


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.

Sacrificial compassion

We are called to provide life and hope to others, but it comes at a cost to ourselves.

We are called to provide life and hope to others, but it comes at a cost to ourselves.

Romans 5:6-8 – “For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Messiah died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person ​– ​though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Messiah died for us.”

There is no greater example of compassion than the ultimate sacrifice God provided for those who refused to believe in him whole heartedly: his own Son. The Jews had rejected God as their king because they wanted an earthly king. They then rejected their earthly king and replaced him with the idolatry of the nations and political ambition. They then looked forward with a hope for a Messiah, and yet rejected him when he arrived because he did not match their expectations.

The Jewish nation was sinful because they had neglected the worship of the true God and had replaced it with their own unattainable system of rules and regulations far above anything God ever imagined for them. Though as a nation they claimed to be righteous and holy, they were in fact impious, ungodly, wicked sinners. That is what the word ungodly means in the verse above: “Messiah died for the ungodly.” Yeshua had come proclaiming the kingdom of God, and they rejected both him and his message. There is nothing more ungodly than rejecting the Word of God which was present in the very person of Messiah Yeshua.

Yet, in remarkable and unheard of obedience, Messiah willingly allowed himself to be mercilessly crucified on their behalf. They refused to die to themselves, so he died for them. He had become their rightful king and ultimate Lord, and they rejected his authority which had come straight from the living God, choosing instead to have him killed.

I don’t know what possible personal infraction you could have suffered that could take precedence over the injustices suffered by Messiah. Yet even through all of that unjustified criticism and rejection, he exemplified the deepest compassion for his own people, those who were like lost sheep, scattered amidst a depraved world. And in so doing, he opened the door for anyone else who desires to come to the God of the universe, as well. If they could have peace with God through faith in him, then so can we. Anyone who places their faith in the Messiah of God is likewise received with gladness and rejoicing in the presence of God.

A sacrificial compassion will be exemplified in similar ways: one must die to oneself in order to provide life and hope to others. As his children through faith, this is who we are, and what we are called to do.


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.

Demonstrating sacrificial faith in God

When we reserve retribution to God, we will be honoring him, and he will be attentive to our call.

When we reserve retribution to God, we will be honoring him, and he will be attentive to our call.

Psalm 4:3-5 – “But know that Yahweh has set apart the faithful for himself; Yahweh hears when I call to him. When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in Yahweh.”

This psalm highlights that those who exhibit faith in God have been set apart for himself. With this being set apart comes a responsibility to maintain that trust in God. The believer demonstrates trust in God when they do not allow themselves to take action against personal injustice, but to meditate or ponder the situation in a quiet place such as the bed, and to remain silent.

In this version, the psalm says, “when you are disturbed, do not sin…” The meaning of being disturbed actually broadens to describe when someone becomes angry, or disquieted, or so worked up over some injustice that they begin to shake and become frustrated. When this happens, they are not to not follow through with the outworking of that frustration, but to think it through in that quiet place.

Instead, the psalmist says to have a two-pronged response: to offer right sacrifices and to put one’s trust in Yahweh. What is a correct sacrificial response for believers today?

Romans 12:1 – “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Hebrews 13:16 – “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

The admonition for believers today is to offer ourselves as ongoing sacrifices, and to not neglect others as we seek to serve God. These are the sacrificial things we need to meditate about and consider as we remain silent on our beds.

Yeshua’s conversation with a scribe brought a similar understanding to him, when he repeated back to the Master his understanding of the whole purpose of man: to love God and to love others.

Mark 12:32-34 – “Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Yeshua saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’”

If we truly offer these “right sacrifices” and maintain our trust that Yahweh will work the situation through in his timing, we will be honoring God and he will be attentive to our call. If we choose to maintain our trust in Yahweh in this way, we can be encouraged through the reassuring words of the apostle Paul:

Romans 8:28 – “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”


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.