The brightly lit fire of self-discipline

We must be vigilant over our own actions to remain fruitful and effective for God in the work that he has laid out for us.

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.

The apostle Paul was writing this to his young protégé, Timothy, in the wider context of reminding him of his spiritual heritage, and to encourage him that he is up to the task of being a leader among the congregations that Paul had been instrumental in establishing throughout Asia.

This “sound judgment” that Paul mentions is a word that also means self-control, self-discipline, and prudence. One of the clear earmarks of the Spirit of God’s influence in our lives is discipline and self-control.

Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.

In writing to Timothy, Paul implies that the intensity of the outworking of the Spirit in the life of the believer is partially dependent on the believer’s participation and focus.

Albert Barnes contributes the following thoughts on Paul’s instruction to Timothy:

“The original word used here denotes the kindling of a fire, as by bellows, etc. It is not uncommon to compare piety to a flame or a fire, and the image is one that is obvious when we speak of causing that to burn more brightly. The idea is, that Timothy was to use all proper means to keep the flame of pure religion in the soul burning, and more particularly his zeal in the great cause to which he had been set apart. The agency of man himself is needful to keep the religion of the heart warm and glowing. However rich the gifts which God has bestowed upon us, they do not grow of their own accord, but need to be cultivated by our own personal care.”

Timothy was tasked with a great many responsibilities, and through them all Paul is encouraging him to remain vigilant, to watch carefully, to be circumspect in all things so that his work can be effective and fruitful.

2 Timothy 4:2, 5 – Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. … But as for you, exercise vigilance in everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

It is necessary to exercise vigilance and self-control in all things, otherwise we are no better than a city without walls; i.e., we have no defenses against danger.

Proverbs 25:28 – Like a city broken down without walls is a man without restraint over his spirit!

If we are reminded to continually kindle the Spirit of God’s influence within us into a larger flame, we can stand against any onslaught that may confront us. We must be vigilant over our own actions to remain fruitful and effective for God in the work that he has laid out for us in the ongoing establishment of his kingdom on the earth.

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 or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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The limitless resource of strength and life

God’s Word and his Spirit is the foundation of a believer’s integrity.

Psalm 1:1-3 – How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! Instead, his delight is in Yahweh’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

At the opening of the book of Psalms is a description of the person of integrity, one who is not captivated and led astray by the sins of those around them. Notice: he does not abide by wicked advice or counsel, he does not take a stand in the way of sinners or dwell with those who arrogantly scorn others.

I have heard sermons illustrating the arc of being led astray by sin in this fashion: it begins by walking in bad advice, then standing with sinners, and finally sitting with those who mock others. Being led astray begins by walking, slows to standing, and ends with sitting among sinners. While it makes a good sermon and is not unhelpful, the underlying Hebrew is not quite that specific. The main focus is not to associate in casual ways with those who are rebellious against the things of God, or one will become like them and dwell among them.

By contrast, the person of integrity will avoid this downward spiral by a very simple and time-honored strategy: to delight in Yahweh’s torah or instruction and to constantly refer to and rely on the principles of God. To the person of integrity, God’s word is delightful, pleasant, and worthy of time and thoughtful study. The word in English is typically translated as meditate, but it also conveys ideas of musing, imagining, speaking and uttering God’s torah. This process is continual, day and night, thinking on, rehearsing and speaking about God’s instruction. This is the foundation of a believer’s integrity.

When one honor’s God’s instruction in this way, the psalmist likens them to a tree that is always vibrant, regardless of the harshness of the environment. If the weather is hot and dry, the tree continues to flourish and bear fruit just as if its roots were tapped into a nearby stream.

Yeshua also references this source of strength in similar terminology.

John 7:38-39 – The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” He said this about the Spirit…

The believer in Messiah who is immersed in the instruction of God will be provided a resource to counter any adverse condition they may encounter. The depths of this resource are limitless, as it is the very Spirit of God himself. Not only will one avoid the snares of the ungodly, but they can also bear fruit in the most inhospitable environments. This is the path of the righteous, the person of integrity.

Proverbs 4:18-19 – The way of the wicked is like the darkest gloom; they don’t know what makes them stumble. But he path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, shining brighter and brighter until midday.

Having the light of the dawn carries hope that the night is almost over, but the righteous person is continually increasing in brightness as they draw from the limitless resource within them. Just as the sun is an inexhaustible source of light and heat, the Spirit of God is an inexhaustible source of wisdom, strength and life. This is the resource available to all believers.

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 or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

God’s desire for his people to live obediently with renewed hearts

Obedience to the ways of God always provides the best outcome for the lives of believers and their descendants.

O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!

Deuteronomy 5:29

God’s desire toward his people is revealed in this verse. He desires a constancy in purpose and vigilance in seeking his ways in all things.

This is one of the few times that God is actually pleased with the response of Israel, at this most pivotal of events in their history. This is the scene at Sinai, when God has rallied his people to himself after delivering them from the oppression of Egypt and bringing them through the dangers of the desert wilderness. He has revealed himself to them in the awe-inspiring display of the thunderous, smoking mountain, speaking the Ten Commandments to the entire assembly. The people recoil in fear having heard the penetrating heavenly voice speak the words of the covenant directly to them. In response, the people urge Moses to be the one to go near to God and to intercede for them.

Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? You go near, and hear all that the LORD our God shall say: and you speak unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto you; and we will hear, and do it.

Deuteronomy 5:25-27, 29

In the recognition of the majesty and power of the one true God, Israel can only respond with the famous agreement: “you speak unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto you; and we will hear, and do it.” This is the response that God desired; not for them to merely be fearful of him, but for them to respect who he is enough for them to be willing to hear and to do. As a parent who knows what’s best for their children, God desired his people to respond to him from the heart with obedient understanding for their own good. He even says that if they obeyed, it would go well with them and their children. Obedience to the ways of God would provide the best outcome for their lives and their descendants.

It is then that God reveals his deepest desire for them: if only they had hearts that would seek him always, it would go well with them. If they would remain vigilant to his ways in all things, they would be blessed. In this rare moment in time, he sees his people truly desiring to be obedient to himself. But he knows they will rebel, not because they don’t believe him, but because their hearts are hard. He longs for a time when they might have renewed hearts of faith that will cause them to walk in his ways in all things and at all times.

This is truly God’s desire for everyone: renewed hearts of obedience for those who have demonstrated sincere faith in his revelation of himself, just as he revealed himself at Sinai. When we come to recognize the majesty of the Father working through Yeshua, then like Israel of old we should come to Yeshua as they did to Moses, saying, “you speak unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto you; and we will hear, and do it.” When we place our faith in Yeshua as teaching us the truths of the Father, just as Israel did toward Moses in that ancient wilderness, we receive the ability to fulfill this longing of our Creator: to have hearts that fear him and vigilantly keep his commands always.

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

Ezekiel 36:26-27

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.

Striving after the passionate faithfulness of past generations

A life of integrity is forged in the constant pursuit of righteousness.

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

Psalm 86:11

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

Psalm 143:10

The person of integrity is one who intently seeks to know the truth of God. They desire to walk in that way, to conform their lives to what God desires of them. They have made seeking God the passion of their life, hungering to know him more and to know the correct way. They will not rest until they have heard a word from God, until he has shown them the next steps on their path.

The Psalms are well-known among believers because they are filled with this type of pleading to God for guidance, for pouring out praise to God and outwardly declaring a desire for righteousness in speech and in action.

As believers, we identify with the passionate expression of these principles, because we are ignited with the same Spirit. The kindred longings and desires of our hearts beat in unison with those faithful who have gone before and expressed their deepest secrets which are immortalized among the pages of Scripture. The integrity that lived and breathed in them inspires us to learn of their ways and mimic their faithfulness.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Hebrews 12:1

Relying on God’s strength to express forgiveness to our enemies

God expects us to honor our adversaries, thankfully he has also provided us the ability to do so.

David asked Saul, “Why do you listen to rumors that I am trying to harm you? Today you saw how the LORD handed you over to me in the cave. Although I was told to kill you, I spared you, saying, ‘I will not raise my hand against Your Majesty because you are the LORD’s anointed.’ My master, look at this! The border of your robe is in my hand! Since I cut off the border of your robe and didn’t kill you, you should know and be able to see I mean no harm or rebellion. I haven’t sinned against you, but you are trying to ambush me in order to take my life. May the LORD decide between you and me. May the LORD take revenge on you for what you did to me. However, I will not lay a hand on you. It’s like people used to say long ago, ‘Wickedness comes from wicked people.’ But I will not lay a hand on you.

1 Samuel 24:9-13

The story of Saul and David encompasses many facets of spiritual instruction within the lore of Israel. In this instance, David and his men are being pursued by a jealous Saul, then present King of Israel, because Saul thinks David is heading a rebellion to overthrow him. The pursuit comes to a climax when Saul unknowingly enters a cave into which David and his men are already hiding. David even gets close enough to cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

This incident highlights Yeshua’s teaching that we should not harm our enemies, paraphrased below.

Never retaliate; instead, offer to go above and beyond for those oppressing you.

Matthew 5:38-41

David could have been justified in taking vengeance on his enemy who was quite literally pursuing him to kill him. However, in our day and culture, those who may be adversarial to us are rarely out to physically kill us. They may speak badly about us in an unjustifiable way; they may actively try to work against our objectives; they may use us for their own personal ends; but they are rarely out to actually take our lives.

If David could be so forgiving and honorable in a justifiable situation with a sworn enemy when his life was in danger, shouldn’t that give us hope that we can, and should, have the ability to overcome the advances of our adversaries?

David mentions a saying that was prevalent in his culture and his time, “Wickedness comes from wicked people.” Yeshua substantiated that perspective even in his teachings, a millennium after the events of David took place:

“A good tree doesn’t produce rotten fruit, and a rotten tree doesn’t produce good fruit. Each tree is known by its fruit. You don’t pick figs from thorny plants or grapes from a thornbush. Good people do the good that is in them. But evil people do the evil that is in them. The things people say come from inside them.

Luke 6:43-45

Even though this may be the case, Yeshua also encourages us to take a very specific stance with those who may be displaying the wickedness that comes from inside of them:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to oppose an evil person. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn your other cheek to him as well. If someone wants to sue you in order to take your shirt, let him have your coat too. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to everyone who asks you for something. Don’t turn anyone away who wants to borrow something from you.

Matthew 5:38-42

If we are to be considered followers of Yeshua, then we need to abide by the principles he endorses, or rather, requires, of those who would claim to be his. These types of non-retaliatory actions require a very special form of forgiveness that can typically only be displayed as we rely on the Spirit of God providing us the strength to do so.

It is impossible to do what God’s standards demand because of the weakness our human nature has. But by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, God condemned sin in the flesh, in our corrupt nature. Therefore, we, who do not live by our corrupt nature but by our spiritual nature, are [now] able to meet God’s standards. Those who live by the corrupt nature have the corrupt nature’s attitude. But those who live by the spiritual nature have the spiritual nature’s attitude. The corrupt nature’s attitude leads to death. But the spiritual nature’s attitude leads to life and peace. This is so because the corrupt nature has a hostile attitude toward God. It refuses to place itself under the authority of God’s standards because it can’t. Those who are under the control of the corrupt nature can’t please God. But if God’s Spirit lives in you, you are under the control of your spiritual nature, not your corrupt nature.

Romans 8:3-9

As believers, God has provided us the resources needed to carry out his expectations that we overcome our adversaries through forgiveness and kind actions. It’s time for us to do so.