Vigilance on the road to New Eden

The way consists of focusing on God and dying to self.

The vigilance required to live the life that God requires involves two distinct yet complementary aspects: a constant focus on God and a committed attitude of dying to self.

Focus on God:
Romans 8:5 – For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit.

Dying to self:
Romans 8:12-14 – So then, brothers, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons.

Focus on God:
Colossians 3:1-2 – So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Dying to self:
Colossians 3:5-10 – Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient, and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.

The apostle Paul conveys some of his most profound teaching in the passages presented here. The crux of the believer’s life is rooted in these deep truths. The summation of the argument in both cases is the ongoing blending of these twin acts of keeping one’s eyes on God and dying to self.

  • “For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons,” (Romans 8:14).
  • “…you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator,” (Colossians 3:10).

Focusing on God and dying to self is defined here as being “led by God’s Spirit,” and by “putting off the old self; putting on the new self.” By faithfully doing these things, Paul says we engage a process of renewal, a type of ongoing resurrection from dead practices to knowledge of what is right. As this process continues we become what God has originally created us to be, “in his image.”

Genesis 1:27 – So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.
Genesis 9:6 – … for God made humans in his image.

All of humanity’s striving is to get back to Eden, to return to the original concept and design that God has for all people. Yet Messiah has begun a new type of creation, one that is better because in it we can be victorious over all trial and temptation. This the the grand goal of all Scripture, to point us in that direction and to empower us through his Spirit living within us. Only dying to self allows for this level of renewal. Only a clear focus on God and his Word provides for dying to self. And the two aspects of this life of dying to self and being led by God’s Spirit are brought to fruition through Messiah Yeshua.

Romans 8:1-2 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Messiah Yeshua, because the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Colossians 3:1 – So if you have been raised with Messiah, seek the things above, where Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God.

In Messiah, God had begun this new and renewed humanity. As Adam was the first physical being, Yeshua became the first spiritually renewed being.

1 Corinthians 15:45-49 – So it is written, The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is of heaven. Like the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; like the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.

As we focus on Messiah and his steadfast obedience to God, we are renewed in his likeness to ultimately bear the image of God.

Galatians 5:16, 24-25 – I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. … Now those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.


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 at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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The foundation of peace

Forgiveness may be simple, but is rarely easy.

Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

To be a peacemaker is to be one who overcomes conflict. An online dictionary defines someone who pacifies as a person who “quells the anger, agitation, or excitement of” others, or a specific situation.

In personal relationships, this can most simply be accomplished through forgiveness. The biblical concept of forgiveness conveys ideas of dismissal or sending away of a burden; a release or letting go of insult or injury; a covering over of an offense or transgression. According to Yeshua, these are the characteristics of the true children of God.

While this may be the simplest way to create peace, it is not always easy. Forgiveness involves rejection of natural feelings of anger at having been offended, or overcoming hurt and real emotional pain. These symptoms of anger and hurt are natural, while indications of forgiveness can seem forced and unnatural. This is why it is difficult and rarely practiced in genuine ways. True forgiveness involves dying to self: the right for the self to be angry, the right for the self to inflict pain back for pain received.

But Yeshua calls us to this higher path of dying to self. Self-sacrifice was the object lesson of his life, culminating in the most widely known object lesson of all; crucifixion of self for the sake of others. Even in the enactment of this ultimate object lesson, he was forgiving those who were physically nailing him to the cross.

Luke 23:33-34 – And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Forgiveness can be offered when one realizes that those causing the offense may not be totally aware of their actions; they are likely acting out reflexively or under the compulsion of their own misguided nature. To rise above these situations is to reject the compulsion to respond in kind, and to choose instead the way of peace and forgiveness.

I was struck recently in learning that the root of the word Jerusalem means “foundation of peace.” That meaning has far-reaching applications throughout biblical interpretation, but none so meaningful as being the eternal habitation of God with his people.

Revelation 21:2-3, 7 – And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God. … He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

According to writer of Hebrews, believers have inherited this city already. As such, this “foundation of peace” should be our base of operations, our current and active environment.

Hebrews 12:14, 22-24 – Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness ​– ​without it no one will see the Lord. … 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 Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant…

If this is where we live, having died to ourselves, then this is how we should act. We should pursue peace with everyone. This is what sets God’s people apart; this is who we are.


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 at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Taking the focus off of ourselves

Real needs exist beyond what’s in the mirror.

“doing nothing through rivalry or through conceit, but in humility, each counting others better than himself; each of you not just looking to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.”

Philippians 2:3-4

This is likely one of the most paradoxical sayings to be heard by modern ears. In our current day and age, when just about everything is about self (social media self-promotion, hyper-sensitivity to personal rights), hearing an admonition to hold others as being better or superior to yourself is practically a foreign concept.

And while this narcissistic focus may be prevalent in this generation, it certainly isn’t exclusive to this current time. Contrasting the characteristics of the unrighteous with the blessings of the righteous, Paul warned about the fate of those who would continue to primarily focus on themselves.

“but to those who are self-seeking, and don’t obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, will be wrath and indignation, oppression and anguish, on every soul of man who works evil, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

Romans 2:8-9

He cautions Timothy of those whom he would be facing in times to come.

“For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,”

2 Timothy 3:2

Peter also rails against the personal agendas of those false believers who were infiltrating the early assemblies of the believers.

“but chiefly those who walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement, and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries;”

2 Peter 2:10

By contrast, the early believers were to be known for the humility and self sacrifice in the service of others. The demonstration of their love and compassion was to be through helping others beyond their own needs.

We would do well in this day and age to spend less time promoting ourselves and looking up from our phones and devices to the urgent needs of those around us. Once our focus is off of ourselves, we can then be prepared to exhibit God‘s compassion to those in need.

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