Underestimating Jesus

By E. W. Kenyon

One cannot conceive of anything that will cripple faith and put the believer in bondage more quickly and surely than underestimating what He is, and what we are in Him. Along with that will come an underestimation of the Word.

We will say right out, “Oh, I believe the Bible is the Word of God.” And yet we turn to the arm of flesh for help.

And when we pray, we do not come with that quiet assurance that we would if some banker had given us his word in regard to our financial standing at the bank.

This is an unconscious underestimation of the Word, and it is an unconscious underestimation of the integrity of the Master Himself, who is the Author of this Word.
This leads to weakness, to doubt and fear. It makes a vacillating type of faith.
We become what James calls “a double-minded man that is unstable in all his ways.”

What will change it?

When we realize what He has done for us in His great Substitution and in the New Creation.

We should meditate on the fact that we are partakers of the divine nature. “These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have Eternal Life, even to you that believe on His name.” (I John 5:13).

If we say over and over again to our hearts: “I am a partaker of God’s very nature. I have in me His faith nature. This makes me a child of faith. I have been begotten of the Living Word through the Holy Spirit. The real me was recreated in Christ. I have the very nature of the Father and the Father is love, so I have in me the love nature of the Father,” if we meditate on this, we will no longer be “double-minded men.”

Repeat it over and over again.

Hold it as a constant affirmation before your mind that you are what He says you are; that you are a partaker of His very nature as He has declared.

And you remember that “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” That Greater One is the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the one that in creation gave the color, the beauty and fragrance to the flowers, to vegetation, to the trees. He is the one that takes of the nature of the Father, and through the Word, builds it into us.

He builds the beauty of Christ into our conduct. He touches our reasoning faculties until the things that He has made in the floral world assume a new interest. and their beauty is enhanced and their fragrance enjoyed as never before.

I can remember the night that I received Eternal Life. It seemed as though I hardly touched the sidewalk on my way home. It was a cold winter night in January, but, oh, how beautiful the snow and the frost. Yes, the trees stripped of their foliage assumed a beauty I had never noted before.

The Holy Spirit had taken possession and was unveiling the wonders of His grace to me.
An underestimation of the Holy Spirit, of the Word, of Jesus, will keep us in a state of flux, in a realm of uncertainty.Fear will dominate us; doubt will bind us, and hold us in the realm of weakness.

But when we come to know Jesus as our Lord, as the Mighty One at the right hand of the Father who ever lives to make intercession for us, our great lawyer that looks after every legal need of ours in Christ, we will no longer be dominated by fear and doubt.

We should come to know the reality of the Holy Spirit’s reality, which is all unveiled to us in the Pauline Revelation.

I urge you to go back and read Romans, and First and Second Corinthians again. Then abide a while in Ephesians, in those first three chapters especially, until you are lifted out of the realm of the senses into the realm of the new man in Christ Jesus.

The fear of seeing what we are in Christ, and of acting as though we knew what we were, has kept us in bondage and robbed us of the reality of His finished work. How slow we have been to act what we are in Him. The Spirit, through the Word, has declared what we are in Christ. Ephesians 1:7 “in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the remission of our trespasses”-and it is according to the riches of His Grace.

That is not a theological redemption. This is not Paul’s philosophy. This is the Father’s description of what we are in His Son, and He says “in whom we have our redemption.”
From Whom and What are we redeemed?

What He Made Us

Satan is the God of Darkness. We have been delivered out of Satan’s Dominion, out of the realm and authority of Darkness. We have been delivered out of the dominion of Sin, for “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” We are delivered out of the authority of Disease, for Romans 8:11 says: “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”

Not only have we a redemption that is literal and absolute, but we are a new creation, and Satan has no dominion over us. Jesus is the Head and Lord of this new creation.
We have been taught so long and so persistently about our weaknesses and our lack of ability and our unworthiness that we hardly dare say that we are what He says we are. We are afraid that people will misunderstand us and think that we have become fanatical.
But He says: “Wherefore if any man is in Christ (and we are in Christ) he is a new creation: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new, and all these things are of God,” and we are reconciled to Him.

We are a part of His very dream.

Satan has no dominion over this new creation.

Ephesians 2:10 says we are created in Christ Jesus, that when Jesus arose from the dead the work of the new creation was consumated in Christ. It became a reality in us when we took Him as our Savior and confessed Him as our Lord.

The Father in His Word has declared what we are in His Son. That declaration is the truth.
I may not have grown up to it, may not have- appreciated it, but it stands there with an open door inviting me to enjoy all the fullness that is mine in Him.

He declares what we may do in the name of His Son. We haven’t appreciated it perhaps, but He gave to us the power of attorney to use His Son’s name. Jesus said, “Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name; ask and receive that your joy may be made full.”
Seven times Jesus repeats this, giving us the legal right to the use of His name.

Philippians 2:9-10 tells us that this name is above every name, and at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, beings in Heaven, beings on earth, and beings under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God my Father.

Not only that, but Jesus said after He arose from the dead, “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations.” Disciple means a student, a learner. He never said, “Go and make converts;” he never said, “Go and make churches,” but “Go and make disciples.”

There will be schools of Christ. Every believer will be a student of this living Word. What Masters they will be!

Not only do we have that power to use the name of Jesus to cast out demons, or to heal the sick, but that Name gives us access to the Father, and is the absolute guarantee of answered prayer.

You see, this prayer life is based upon absolute knowledge. It is not based upon emotion nor feelings nor the theories of men, but upon the Living Word of God, this Word that “Liveth and Abideth.”

When you know in your heart that you are what He says you are, then you act it in the face of all, confessing what He has done in you, confessing what He has made you. This glorifies Him and His Work.

To deny what we are, to tell what Satan is doing in our bodies and minds, is denying what we are in Christ.

When Jesus said, “All things are possible to him that believeth,” He meant that all things are possible to the Believer. All that Believer needs to do is to get to know what he is in Christ, then rise up and take his place.

What Masters He has made us to be! How invincible we are! Can’t you see what it would mean for one in the face of all this to be talking about his weakness, his lack, making his confession of his inability.

“Of His fulness have we all received,” and it is grace and the ability of God for us to enjoy to the very limit all that we are in Him.

This page Copyright © 2000 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the King James Version. This article appears on the site: https://www.peterwade.com/.

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The Power and Sufficiency of God’s Word

GOAL: The objective of this study is to examine the Scripture and chart out the truth revealed about the benefits or promises of God’s Word and what our responsibilities are in order to realize those promises. In this exercise the student should see the value of simply observing the text and interpreting the passage based on those observations. The ultimate goal is for each student to comprehend the power and sufficiency of God’s Word, so that they leave the discussion like newborn babes who have a passion and desire for the pure life giving milk of God’s Word. Pray much before, during and after the study, for our battle is not against flesh and blood but is spiritual and the enemy of our souls hates the Word of God.

This study could be easily tailored for a Sunday School class or small group session by handing out a chart like the one below (without the columns filled in of course!). Another handout could be the Scriptures you would like to discuss, which has the advantage of saving time (if time is at a premium) and assures that everyone is reading the same translation. Alternatively the students could observe the passages in their own Bible, which is always a good practice. The Scriptures used to fill out this chart are from the NAS translation, because it is one of the most literal (BIBLE VERSIONS How Literal is your translation?)

If you have access to an overhead projector, prepare a copy of the chart to fill in as the class observes each verse. Alternatively you could fill out the chart on a white board if available.

You probably have some favorite verses that are not included in this brief survey and you are encouraged to add or substitute as you desire. It would be best to select verses that are not controversial and in which it is easy to observe Man’s responsibility and God’s promise or benefit.

Note that the explanatory comments in parentheses are to be used by the leader as deemed appropriate to guide and amplify the discussion. It is a good practice to briefly establish the context of the individual verses to ensure accurate Interpretation of the passages.

Copy and paste the handout chart below noting that the columns for “Our Responsibility” and “Our Reward” are to be filled in on an overhead transparency or a white board as your class offers their observations on each verse. You might want to substitute other Scriptures that speak of the sufficiency of the Word of God for all life and godliness and the rewards thereof (e.g., Psalm 19:7891011 “in keeping them there is great reward”). You will probably need to delete some of the Scriptures if your discussion time is limited. In a test run with a group of Indonesian Christian students, going through this chart interactively took about 90 minutes, but even then the last 4-5 verses had to be discussed hurriedly! Obviously the length of time depends on how long you spend explaining the background context and whether you illustrate or explain some of the Scriptures with ancillary material in the Leader’s Guide.

Read the Bible as if God were speaking to you. He is!

Give it a try! Read each Scripture and simply observe what your responsibility is in order for the benefit or promise of God to be realized or “activated”. Keep it simple. It will still be profound and convicting because it is God’s pure word. Let the Scriptures speak for themselves and guard against subjective comments such as “I feel this verse means… “, etc. Direct the participants back to pure observation… what does the text say. It is only when we allow God’s Spirit to speak directly to us through the Word that we are able to determine what He meant when He inspired the human authors to write the passage. At strategic points during the discussion you will have opportunity to insert application type questions or comments, some of which are suggested in the Leader’s Guide.

This study would be excellent “warm up” prior to another Bible study because it emphasizes the power and sufficiency of God’s Word and it also makes the point that any Bible study that is going to have significant life transforming impact “stay very close” to the pure milk of God’s Word. Bible studies that drift away from “thus saith the LORD” may “feel good” but only God’s Word discerns the thoughts and intentions of our heart. Only God’s Word provides everything the believer needs for true, fulfilling and abundant life.

Related ResourceGod’s Word is a Word of...(see Scriptural descriptions)

My Favorite Illustration of the Power of the Word of God – Spurgeon who experienced the power of God’s Word, went on to become one of the greatest preachers of God’s Word. The following Spurgeon anecdote beautifully illustrates the supernatural power of God’s Word…

The renowned preacher C H Spurgeon once tested an auditorium in which he was to speak that evening. Stepping into the pulpit, he loudly proclaimed,

Behold the lamb of God
Who takes away the sin of the world.

(Jn 1:29)

Satisfied with the acoustics, he left and went his way. Unknown to him, there were two men working in the rafters of that large auditorium, neither one a Christian. One of the men was pricked in his conscience by the verse Spurgeon quoted and became a believer later that day! Such is the penetrating power of God’s eternal word! Little wonder that Paul is so insistent on the persistent “preaching of the Word” (2Ti 4:2note)

I love Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s words on the Word and his prayer each time he opened the Word…

How are we to handle this sword of “It is written” (referring to Mt 4:4)? First, with deepest reverence. Let every word that God has spoken be Law and Gospel to you. Never trifle with it; never try to evade its force or to change its meaning. God speaks to you in this book as much as if again He came to the top of Sinai and lifted up His voice in thunder. I like to open the Bible and to pray,

Lord God, let the words leap out of the page into my soul, Thyself making them vivid, quick, powerful, and fresh to my heart.

Our Lord Himself felt the power of the word. It was not so much the devil who felt the power of “It is written” as Christ Himself. “No,” saith He, “I will not command stones to be made bread; I trust in God Who can without bread sustain Me. I will not cast Myself down from the temple; I will not tempt the Lord My God. I will not worship Satan, for God alone is God.” The manhood of Christ felt an awe of the Word of God, and so it became a power to Him. To trifle with Scripture is to deprive yourself of its aid. Reverence it, I beseech you, and look up to God with devout gratitude for having given it to you. (From his sermon – Infallibility—Where to Find It and How to Use It)

What is the Bible?

“THIS BOOK contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners and the happiness of believers.

Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable.

Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe and practice it to be holy.

It contains light to direct you, food to support you and comfort to cheer you.

It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword and the Christian’s character.

Here paradise is restored, heaven opened and the gates of hell disclosed.

Christ is its grand object, our good is its design and the glory of God its end.

It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet.

Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully.

It is given you in life and will be opened in the judgment and will be remembered forever.

It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labour, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.”

— Anonymous (found on the flyleaf of an old Bible)

Melvin Worthington gives us a wonderful lesson entitled “The Wonderful Word” based on 2 Timothy 3:14151617


The Bible is an amazing book, a living book. It provides information which can be found in no other book.

1. The Nature of the Bible (2Ti 3:16 {note}Ps. 119:12345ff1Pe 1:2021 {note}). The attributes which make the Bible a unique book include its author, authority, accuracy, adequacy, appeal, and agenda.

2. The Need for the Bible (1Pe 1:232425-notes 1Pe1:232425Jas 1:18noteJohn 5:24). The Bible addresses all the needs of the human being. It is essential for life, likeness, liberty, light, and labor.

3. The Nourishment from the Bible (see 1Pe 2:2note). The Bible reveals and regulates the development God planned, the diet God provided, the disposition God prescribed, and the diadem God promised.

4. The Neglect of the Bible (1Cor 3:12). Neglect of the Bible leads to dullness, drifting, disobedience, despising, denouncing, and departing from the Lord.


Christians need to peruse, ponder, and pray over the Scriptures. This takes time, thought, toil, and tenacity. We need to pray—Father help me hear, heed, hold, honor, and herald the Word of God.


Provides Everything Necessary for Life & Godliness

Heb 4:12noteHeb 4:13note2Pe 1:3note

and/or BENEFIT
2Ti 3:16,17
Click note(Context= Paul’s last words charging Timothy to Guard the Treasure of God’s Word & Entrust it to faithful men who can teach others)Adequacy

Believe It

(Do you believe that all Scripture has been inspired or breathed by God – from Genesis to Revelation?)

(Do you believe that all Scripture is truly profitable for your life? Even the Old Testament?)

All Scripture is profitable for:

Teaching (show us what’s right)

Reproof (shows us what’s wrong)

Correction (shows us how to get right

Training in Righteousness (shows and leads us to live right = according to God’s standard, not men’s standard of what’s right)

Adequateequipped for every good work

1 Peter 2:1,2
Click note1note 2(Context = 1Pe1:232425 Peter readers have been “born again” by the “living and abiding word”)Spiritual
Putting aside all…






Approach the Word like a...

newborn baby

Long for (desire, delight) pure milk of God’s Word (a command not a suggestion)

(No desire? Are you a “newborn baby”? Are you born again? Have you “put aside”? Perhaps you need to confess your sin to God and repent) and believer upon the Lord Jesus Christ Romans 10:9,10

Growth in salvation
(Not grow to be smarter sinners but to be more like the Savior)
Psalm 1:1-3
Click notes 1:11:21:3Real “happiness” andProsperity
Do not…

Walk in counsel of wicked

Stand in path of sinners

Sit in the seat of scoffers

Delight in the Word

(When something delights us, we become preoccupied with it and we tend to protect and guard it)

Meditate in the Word day and night

(Meditation is to our inner person what digestion is to our body – “chewing the cud”. Make the Word a part of your life and you grow)

Blessed (fully satisfied independent of circumstances)Is like a tree planted by water

Yields fruit in season

Its leaf does not whither

All he does prospers

(Prosper = expresses idea of a successful venture, as contrasted with failure and the source of such success is God)

119:9, 10, 11
Dealing with Sin
Treasure (memorize) the WordKeep (heed, obey) the Word

Pray the Word (do not let me wander)

Keeps our way pureEquips us so that less likely to sin against God
Joshua 1:8

Moses has died
Lord instructs JoshuaLeadership

Spiritual Warfare

Meditate on the Word day and nightDo not let it depart from your mouth

(it should be a constant component of your conversation – not necessarily quoting Bible verses but speaking according to the principles of the Word)

Be careful to do (obey) it

Way prosperousSuccess
Ezra 7:910
Click note Ezra 7:10
Set your heart to study the Word
Practice the Word
Teach the Word
Good hand of God upon him
Jeremiah 15:16

Feeling downcast

Find the Word
(Do you seek it?)

“Eat” the Word
(Do you just nibble at it?
Is the word just “snack” food?)

Digest, Assimilate and make the Word part of your very being.

Delight in one’s heart
Matthew 4:4


Eat the Word

Unless the Word becomes a vital part of our inner being, we can’t receive nourishment and grow in the spiritual life.

(Real Spiritual Life)
Job 23:1011,12
See notes Job 23:101112
Trials(Context = Job 1 = blameless, upright, fearing God, turning away from evil” Loss of children and wealth. Responds with worship)
Hold fast to His path, keep His way

Don’t turn; depart from His command

Treasure His words more than food!

Come forth from trials
As “pure gold”


To Be Used As Needed by Leader to Amplify the Discussion
(See also Quotations related to Word of God)

2 Timothy 3:16-17
(For more detailed exposition click here)

What is man’s responsibility?

To believe that all (every word) of Scripture from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 is inspired or breathed by God and to order our steps accordingly.

Reproof –

“Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them.”

In 2 Timothy 3:17 (note), “adequate” describes the man or woman of God who is able to meet all the demands of the work God has prepared for them beforehand in Christ Jesus that they should walk in them (see Ephesians 2:10note). They are full ready, qualified, fully ready, perfectly fit. The following story illustrates what it means to be “adequateequipped“:

The disease often plagues armies, explorers, and crusaders, since these men’s diets normally consisted of biscuits and salted meat that could easily be stored and kept unspoiled on a ship. A Scottish naval surgeon named James Lind discovered Vitamin C after a four year sea voyage which was lead by Admiral George Anson. During the voyage more than a thousand sailors lost their lives to scurvy, after which Lind began investigating the disease and came to the realization that the disease was most common among people who’s diet had been extremely limited. To test his hypothesis (that the disease was caused by a limited diet), he decided to treat sickened sailors with different foods during a ten-week sea voyage. He found that a diet with citrus fruit provided the most dramatic cure for the disease. Lind published his findings as Treatise on the Scurvy in 1753, and as a result, in 1795 daily doses of lime juice were prescribed to all the sailors in the British navy and Scurvy quickly vanished. However, the British were the only people who accepted the idea that Scurvy was the result of a dietary deficiency, and Great Britain was the only place where there was a decline in the cases of Scurvy. In America, during the Civil war, many men on both sides of the war died from this disease due to the lack of a source of Vitamin C in their diet. THEY WERE NOT ADEQUATELY EQUIPPED

Thanks for the Bible
Thanks for Thy Word, O blessèd Redeemer!
Open our eyes its beauty to see;
Grant us Thy grace to study it wisely,
Close every heart to all but Thee.


Thanks for the Bible, off’ring so freely
Pardon and peace to all who believe;
Help us, O Lord, its counsel to follow,
Meekly by faith its truth receive.

Thanks for Thy Word of precept and promise,
Lamp to our feet and light to our way,
Points us afar where pleasures immortal
Bloom in Thine own bright realm of day.


Blessed are they who keep its commandments,
They shall abide for ever with Thee;
Close by the clear and beautiful river,
Sharing the fruits of life’s fair tree.
— Fanny Crosby

1 Peter 2:1-2
(See notes 1Pe2:12:2)


Psalm 1:1-3
(See Commentary)

For this psalm “charted out” click here

Blessed You will take careful note that there is an obvious concentration of this Hebrew word blessed (‘esher) in Psalms. Click and ponder the uses of “blessed” noting associations and asking God to search your heart. Blessed is a state of prosperity or happiness when superior bestows favor (i.e., God for Christians). The Hebrew is translated in the LXX in this verse (and often in other OT uses) with the Greek word makarios which means fully satisfied independent of one’s circumstances (which therefore has to be a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit). One can be “makarios” – blessed – and in miserable circumstances. “Blessed are you,” Jesus said, “when they insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (see Mt 5:11noteMt 5:12note). So “blessed are you” does not mean untroubled are you” or “healthy are you” or “admired are you” or “prosperous are you.” It means “between you and God all is well.” You are deeply secure, profoundly content, happy in God – even if you are weeping over the pain of a struck body, a perplexed mind, or a heartbreaking relationship. Strengthened by His Spirit you can still in all things give thanks and rejoice always.

You will note that nowhere does Scripture tell us that God blesses programs or promotions. But it does teach that He blesses individuals. He blessed Abraham so he might be a blessing to others. And He blesses us so we might bless others.

Delight (2656) (see also notes on Psalm 1:2) Hebrew chephets = basic meaning = feel great favor towards something. The root idea is to incline toward something. In chephets, the object of one’s delight solicits favor by its own intrinsic qualities (E.g., “O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day.” Ps 119:97). The subject is easily attracted to it because it is desirable.

What you delight in is what will direct your life, so be careful what you enjoy.

The Bible: The more you read it, the more you love it; the more you love it, the more you read it.

Spurgeon in his Treasury of David writes…

1. Blessed. See how this Book of Psalms opens with a benediction, as did the famous Sermon of our Lord on the Mount! The word translated blessed is plural, and it is a controverted matter whether it is an adjective or a substantive. Hence we may learn the multiplicity of the blessings which will rest on those whom God has justified, and the perfection and greatness of the blessedness they will enjoy. We might read it, “Oh, the blessednesses!” and we may well regard it (as Ainsworth does) as a joyful acclamation of the gracious man’s felicity. May the like benediction rest on us!

Here the gracious man is described both negatively (verse 1) and positively (verse 2). He is a man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. He takes wiser counsel, and walks in the commandments of the Lord his God. To him the ways of piety are paths of peace and pleasantness. His footsteps are ordered by the Word of God, and not by the cunning and wicked devices of carnal men. It is a rich sign of inward grace when the outward walk is changed, and when ungodliness is put far from our actions.

Note next, he standeth not in the way of sinners. His company is of a choicer sort than it was. Although a sinner himself, he is now a blood-washed sinnerquickened by the Holy Spirit, and renewed in heart. Standing by the rich grace of God in the congregation of the righteous, he dares not herd with the multitude who do evil.

Again it is said, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. He finds no rest in the atheist’s scoffings. Let others make a mock of sin, of eternity, of hell and heaven, and of the Eternal God; this man has learnt better philosophy than that of the infidel, and has too much sense of God’s presence to endure to hear His name blasphemed. The seat of the scorner may be very lofty, but it is very near to the gate of hell; let us flee from it, for it will soon be empty, and destruction will swallow up the man who sits therein. Mark the gradation in the first verse:

He walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,

Nor standeth in the way of sinners,

Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

When people are living in sin they go from bad to worse. At first they merely walk in the counsel of the careless and ungodly, who forget God—the evil is rather practical than habitual—but after that they become habituated to evil, and they stand in the way of open sinners who willfully violate God’s commandments; and if let alone, they go one step further, and become themselves pestilent teachers and tempters of others, and thus they sit in the seat of the scornful. They have taken their degree in vice, and as true Doctors of Damnation they are installed, and are looked up to by others as Masters in Belial . But the blessed man, the man to whom all the blessings of God belong, can hold no communion with such characters as these. He keeps himself pure from these lepers; he puts away evil things from him as garments spotted by the flesh; he comes out from among the wicked, and goes outside the camp, bearing the reproach of Christ. O for grace to be thus separate from sinners.

2. And now mark his positive character. His delight is the the law of the Lord. He is not under the law as a curse and condemnation, but he is in it, and he delights to be in it as his rule of life; he delights, moreover, to meditate in it, to read it by day and think upon it by night. He takes a text and carries it with him all day long; and in the night-watches, when sleep forsakes his eyelids, he muses (click) upon the Word of God. In the day of his prosperity he sings psalms out of the Word of God, and in the night of his affliction he comforts himself with promises out of the same book. The law of the Lord is the daily bread of the true believer. And yet, in David’s day, how small was the volume of inspiration, for they had scarcely anything save the first five books of Moses! How much more, then, should we prize the whole written Word which it is our privilege to have in all our houses! But, alas, what ill-treatment is given to this angel from heaven! We are not all Berean searchers of the Scriptures. How few among us can lay claim to the benediction of the text! Perhaps some of you can claim a sort of negative purity, because you do not walk in the way of the ungodly; but let me ask you—Is your delight in the law of God? Do you study God’s Word? Do you make it the man of your right hand—your best companion and hourly guide? If not, this blessing does not belong to you.

3. And he shall be like a tree planted. Not a wild tree, but one planted, chosen, considered as property, cultivated and secured from the last terrible uprooting (see Matthew 15:13).

By the rivers of water. Even if one river should fail, he has another. The rivers of pardon and the rivers of grace, the rivers of the promise and the rivers of communion with Christ, are never-failing sources of supply.

That bringeth forth his fruit in his season. Not unseasonable graces, like untimely figs, which are never full-flavored. But the man who delights in God’s Word, being taught by it, brings forth patience in the time of suffering, faith in the day of trial, and holy joy in the hour of prosperity. Fruitfulness is an essential quality of a gracious man, and that fruitfulness should be seasonable.

His leaf also shall not wither. His faintest word will be everlasting; his little deeds of love will be remembered. Not only will his fruit be preserved, but his leaf also. He will neither lose his beauty nor his fruitfulness, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Blessed is the man who has such a promise as this. But we must not always estimate the fulfillment of a promise by our own eye-sight. How often, my brethren, if we judge by feeble sense, may we come to the mournful conclusion of Jacob, “All these things are against me!” For though we know our interest in the promise, yet are we so tried and troubled that sight sees the very reverse of what that promise foretells. But to the eye of faith this word is sure, and by it we perceive that our works are prospered, even when everything seems to go against us. It is not outward prosperity which the Christian most desires and values; it is soul prosperity which he longs for. We often, like Jehoshaphat, make ships go to Tarshish for gold, but they are broken at Ezion-geber; but even here there is a true prospering, for it is often for the soul’s health that we should be poor, bereaved, and persecutedOur worst things are often our best things. As there is a curse wrapped up in the wicked man’s mercies, so there is a blessing concealed in the righteous man’s crosses, losses, and sorrows. The trials of the saint are a divine husbandry, by which he grows and brings forth abundant fruit.

Meditation is to the soul (real “soul food”) what digestion is to the body. It means assimilating the Word of God.

Warren Wiersbe comments that…

A tree has roots. The most important part of your life is your “root system.” Don’t be like the ungodly, who are like chaff (Ps 1:4). Chaff doesn’t have roots. It is blown away by every wind that comes along. Your root system is important because it determines your nourishment. It also determines your stability and your strength when the storm comes and the wind starts to blow.

People can’t see your root system, but God can. Praying and meditating on the Word of God will cause your roots to go down deep into His love.

God delights in blessing His children. But we must prepare ourselves for His blessings by first appropriating the resources He has given us. Delight in the Word of God and feed on it. But do more than occasionally read the Word; meditate on it constantly. Make it your source of spiritual nourishment, and God will bless you with strength and stability.

Two of the most popular words in the Christian vocabulary are bless and blessing. God wants to bless His people. He wants them to be recipients and channels of blessing. God blesses us to make us a blessing to others, but He has given us certain conditions for receiving blessings.

First, we must be separated from the world (Ps 1:1note). The world is anything that separates us from God or causes us to disobey Him. Separation is not isolation but contact without contamination. Sin is usually a gradual process. Notice the gradual decline of the sinner in Ps 1:1. He is walking (Mark 14:54), standing (John 18:18) and then sitting (Luke 22:55). Becoming worldly is progressive; it happens by degrees. We make friends with the world; we become spotted by the world; we love the world, become confirmed to it and end up condemned with it. Lot is an example of someone who became worldly. He looked toward Sodom, pitched his tent toward Sodom, lived there, lost everything and ended in sin.

Second, we must be saturated with the Word (Ps 1:2note). Whatever delights us directs us. We saturate ourselves with the Word by meditating on it. Meditation is to the spirit what digestion is to the body. When we meditate on the Word, we allow the Spirit of God within us to “digest” the Word of God for us. So not only do we delight in the Word, it becomes a source of spiritual nourishment for us.

Enjoy the blessings God has for you and allow Him to make you a blessing to others. (A third condition, being situated by the waters, is the topic of our next devotional.)

God desires to bless us, but we must meet His conditions for receiving blessings. By staying separate from the world and keeping saturated in the Word, (“This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27) we may expect God’s blessings. Resolve to meditate on the Word of God and obey it. He will make you a blessing to others.

Like a tree“: A tree is a blessing. It holds soil, provides shade and produces fruit. The godly are like trees, with root systems that go deep into the spiritual resources of God’s grace (Ps 1:3note). But sadly, many professing Christians are not like trees but are like artificial plants or cut flowers with no roots. They may be beautiful for a while, but soon they die. (Ed note: Cf Jesus’ words that “those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. And the seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” Luke 8:13,1415; Paul’s warning about those who “profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed.” Titus 1:16 (note), Jesus’ stern warning “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.” see Mt 7:21noteMt 7:22noteMt 7:23note)

A tree needs light, water and roots to live. We all have resources upon which we draw life. The question we need to ask ourselves is, Where are our roots? The person God can bless is planted by the rivers of water. We must be careful not to be like Christians who are dry and withered and depend upon their own resources. They are like tumbleweeds, blown about by any wind of doctrine.

To have the blessings of Ps 1:3, we need to meet the conditions of Ps 1:12. That is, we must first be separated from the world and saturated with the Word to be situated by the waters. God desires to bless us, but we need to meet certain conditions to receive His blessings. We bear fruit only when we have roots, and we must draw upon spiritual resources to bring forth fruit in due season. To bear the fruit of the Spirit, we must allow the Spirit to work in us and through us.

In contrast to the believer, the ungodly are not like trees but are like chaff. They have no roots, produce no fruit and are blown about. The ungodly reject the Word of God and will perish without hope (Ps 1:6). As Christians we must not reject the ungodly but try to reach them. God blesses us so that we might be a blessing to others. His Spirit helps us bear fruit that can help win the lost.

Are you like a tree or like chaff?

We need God’s resources to bear fruit. But where we place our roots is paramount. Only as we grow them deeply into the spiritual resources of God’s grace (Ed note: His Word, cf “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32) will we produce fruit. Make the Bible your spiritual resource. Delight in it and feed your soul with its truth. God can use you to help win the lost. (Wiersbe, W: Prayer Praise and Promises: A Daily Walk Through the Psalms) (Bolding added)

Psalm 119:9-11

How in the world a person keep clean in this unholy world? The psalmist answers that it is “By taking heed according to God’s word” a truth which doesn’t apply only to young men but to every man, woman and child. The world is spiritually “dirty” and the pollution will not get better but worse so as we walk around in this world we need to make sure we walk in the Word of God by daily reading and hiding the Word (in our heart – our “command center” so to speak) so that we can be heeding the word.

G. Campbell Morgan noted that this verse…

It tells us about the best book--‘Thy Word’–in the best place–‘my heart’–for the best purpose–‘that I might not sin’ against God.

When was the last time you memorized a passage of Scripture? God’s Word has a cleansing effect. You must (no excuses please) get into the Word so that it can get into you and can then become effective in your life, as the Spirit uses it to renew our minds and transform our thinking so that we are enabled more and more to discern the will of God at every turn of the road of our life. The Word obeyed is the best preventative for the “dirt” of this world which is passing away as are it’s lusts.

What does it mean to “treasure” something? (Click definition of the Hebrew word)

I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture… No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified. (Charles Swindoll)

I am convinced that one of the greatest things we can do is to memorize Scripture. (Billy Graham)

One of the most important Christian disciplines is Scripture memory. If I had it my way, every student would know 500 verses word perfect with the references before leaving Dallas (Dallas Theological Seminary) (Howard Hendricks)

God’s Word more clearly unveils God’s will for your life than any other modality and as Alexander Maclaren puts it…

When God’s will is deeply planted within, it will work quickening change on the heavy dough of our sluggish natures. It is when we bring the springs of our actions — namely, our motives, which are our true selves — into touch with His uttered will, that our deeds become conformed to it. Look after the motives, and the deeds will look after themselves. ‘I have hid Thy word within my heart.’ (Click to read Maclaren’s entire message)

Warren Wiersbe notes that…

You must also rejoice in God’s Word, delight in it and meditate on it. Meditation is to your inner person what digestion is to your body. When you truly delight in the Word, you will have a desire to meditate on it and make it a part of your life. In Psalm 119, the writer connects “delight” and “meditation” (Psalm 119:15,1623,24474877,78) Cultivate an appetite for the Word of God. (Wiersbe, W: With the Word: Chapter-by-Chapter Bible Handbook. Nelson or Logos)

A powerful illustration of someone “treasuring” the Word of God:

The first requirement for keeping that TREASURE is to recognize that it is a TREASURE. A beautiful and touching story is told of a young French girl who had been born blind. After she learned to read by touch, a friend gave her a Braille copy of Mark’s gospel. She read it so much that her fingers became calloused and insensitive. In an effort to regain her feeling, she cut the skin from the ends of her fingers. Tragically, however, her callouses were replaced by permanent and even more insensitive scars. She sobbingly gave the book a goodbye kiss, saying,


In doing so, she discovered that her lips were even more sensitive than her fingers had been, and she spent the rest of her life reading her great treasure with her lips. Would that every Christian had such an appetite for the Word of God!

The Preacher’s Commentary addressing the question “How can a young man cleanse his way?” writes…

The question is classic because it is the great issue of the Bible. How can a sinner stand in the presence of a holy God? The cleansing of our way implies that we have fallen. How can we be washed and restored? The reference to youth reminds us of the Book of Proverbs (see Proverbs 1:4,81015, etc.). The answer to the question is as follows: “By taking heed according to Your word.” This taking heed includes two things. First, the Word of God cleanses us as it separates us from this world and all of its uncleanness. Thus Jesus tells His disciples, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). But, second, the Word of God also cleanses us as it directs us in the paths of righteousness. It not only separates us from the world; it also separates us to God. The Word works to bring us into the will of God.

Next, the psalmist confesses: “With my whole heart I have sought You” (v10; see v2). Because of his singleness of purpose, his “whole heart,” he can then continue, “Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments.” God not only reveals His will to us; He keeps us in that will. We must note again that the psalmist is not a legalist. He has no illusions that He can do God’s will in his own strength. He is entirely dependent upon the God who calls him to keep him. This divine keeping is a matter of the heart. Thus he continues in verse 11, “Your word I have hidden [‘laid up’] in my heart, / That I might not sin against You.” As the Word is memorized and internalized, it be comes directive for our lives. No wonder Jesus tells us that if we “abide” (“continue, remain”) in His Word, then we are His disciples (John 8:31). His Word will determine our walk.

As a new Christian I was encouraged to memorize Scripture. Introduced to the Topical Memory System of the Navigators, I amassed several score of verses on salvation, prayer, the Christian life, etc. Often during my high school lunch hour I would slip away to a quiet place for review. This investment was for a lifetime. Again and again in preaching and counseling, these verses have come back to me. How grateful I am that as a young believer I was introduced to hiding God’s Word in my heart. (Briscoe, D. S., & Ogilvie, L. J. The Preacher’s Commentary Series. Thomas Nelson or Logos)

C H Spurgeon (Treasury of David) comments…

How will he become and remain practically holy? He is but a young man, full of hot passions, and poor in knowledge and experience; how will he get right, and keep right? Never was there a more important question for any man; alas, his way is already unclean by actual sin which he has already committed, and he himself has within his nature a tendency towards that which defiles.

Here, then, is the difficulty, first of beginning aright, next of being always able to know and choose the right, and of continuing in the fight till perfection is ultimately reached.

Let him not think that he knows the road to easy victory, nor dream that he can keep himself by his own wisdom; he will do well to follow the psalmist, and become an earnest inquirer asking how he may cleanse his way.

Let him become a practical disciple of the holy God, who alone can teach him how to overcome the world, (2 Peter 1:4{note}1John 5:4,5Gal 6:14) the flesh, and the devil, that trinity of defilers by whom many a hopeful life has been spoiled. He is young and unaccustomed to the road; let him not be ashamed often to inquire his way of him who is so ready and so able to instruct him in it.

Our way is a subject which concerns us deeply, but it is not to be answered by unaided reason, nor, when answered, can the directions be carried out by unsupported human power. By taking heed thereto according to thy word. Young man, the Bible must be your chart, and you must exercise great watchfulness that your way may be according to its directions. You must take heed to your daily life as well as study your Bible, and you must study your Bible that you may take heed to your daily life. To obey the Lord and walk uprightly will need all our heart and soul and mind.

Yet the word is absolutely necessary, for otherwise care will darken into morbid anxiety, and conscientiousness may become superstition. It is not enough to desire to be right; for ignorance may make us think that we are doing God service when we are provoking him, and the fact of our ignorance will not reverse the character of our action, however much it may mitigate its criminality.

Let each person, young or old, who desires to be holy have a holy watchfulness in his heart, and keep the Holy Bible before his open eye. There he will find every turn of the road marked down, every slough and miry place pointed out, with the way to go through unsoiled; and there, too, he will find light for his darkness, comfort for his weariness, and company for his loneliness, so that by its help he will reach the benediction of the first verse of the psalm, which suggested the psalmist’s inquiry, and awakened his desires.

Note how the first section of eight verses has for its first verse, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way,” and the second section runs parallel to it, with the question, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?” The blessedness which is set before us in a conditional promise should be practically sought for in the way appointed. The Lord says, “For this will I be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them.” (See also Spurgeon’s comments on Verse 10 and Verse 11)

John Calvin comments that…

Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way? In this place he repeats, in different words, the same truth which he formerly advanced, That, however much men may pique themselves upon their own works, there is nothing pure in their life until they have made a complete surrender of themselves to the word of the Lord. The more effectually to excite them to this, he produces, in an especial manner, the example of children or youths. In mentioning these, he by no means gives an unbridled license to those who have arrived at mature years, or who are aged, as if they were competent to regulate their own life, and as if their own prudence served as a law to them; but because youth puts men where two ways meet, and renders it imperative for them to select the course of life which they mean to follow, he declares that, when a person sets about the regulation of his life, no advice will prove of any advantage, unless he adopts the law of God as his rule and guide. In this way the prophet stimulates men to an early and seasonable regulation of their manners, and not to delay doing so any longer, agreeably to the words of Solomon, “Remember thy Creator in thy youth, ere the days of trouble come, and the years which shall be grief unto thee,” Ecclesiastes 12:1. They who defer from time to time become hardened in their vicious practices, and arrive at mature years, when it is too late to attempt a reformation. There is another reason, arising from the fact, of the carnal propensities being very powerful in youth, requiring a double restraint; and the more they are inclined to excess, the greater is the necessity for curbing their licentiousness. The prophet, therefore, not without reason, exhorts them particularly to attend to the observance of the law.

With my whole heart. Conscious of the integrity of his heart, the prophet still implores the help of God, that he might not stumble by reason of his infirmity. He makes no boast of self-preparation, as if he had spontaneously begun to inquire after God, but in praising the grace which he had experienced, he at the same time aspires after steadfastness to persevere in walking in his ways.

William Cowper comments on Ps 119:11:

There is great difference between Christians and worldlings. The worldling hath his treasures in jewels without him; the Christian hath them within. Neither indeed is there any receptacle wherein to receive and keep the word of consolation but the heart only. If thou have it in thy mouth only, it shall be taken from thee; if thou have it in thy book only, Thou shalt miss it when thou hast most to do with it; but if thou lay it up in thy heart, as Mary did the words of the angel, no enemy shall ever be able to take it from thee, and thou shalt find it’s comfortable treasure in time of thy need. Among many excellent virtues of the word of God, this is one: that if we keep it in our heart, it keeps us from sin, which is against God and against ourselves. We may mark it by experience, that the word is first stolen either out of the mind of man, and the remembrance of it is away; or at least out of the affection of man; so that the reverence of it is gone, before a man can be drawn to the committing of a sin. So long as Eve kept by faith the word of the Lord, she resisted Satan; but from the time she doubted of that, which God made most certain by his word, at once she was snared. —

Joshua 1:8
(See commentary)

Establish the context from the preceding passages:

Josh 1:1 Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying,

2 “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.

3 “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.

4 “From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun, will be your territory.

5 “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.

6 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.

7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.

8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Observe: Who is speaking to Joshua? Why? When? What has transpired? What is Jehovah’s command? What is the land like into which Joshua is to lead the people? What is Joshua’s mindset to be (note what is repeated three times!). If you have time you can do a simple observation with the class asking these type of questions.

God Himself is addressing Joshua because Israel’s leader Moses has died and the mantle of leadership is being passed to this new leader. Joshua is to lead Israel into the “promised land” filled with adversaries and pagan idolatry. Temptation and Warfare will occur. So what does God tell Joshua he must do? Does He tell him to make sure the soldiers have their weapons and are in good shape? No. God tells Joshua to make sure that the “Sword of the Word of God” is to be his focus and will provide all that he needs in order to assure success.

“Book of the law”:

A reference to Scripture, specifically Genesis through Deuteronomy (Pentateuch from penta = five), written by Moses. Deuteronomy 31 talks about Moses’ completing the book and of his committing it to the care of the priests:

“Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, “Take this book of the law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may remain there as a witness against you.” (Deuteronomy 31:25-26)

but it wasn’t enough that the priests carried it around and protected it. No, Joshua had to take the time to read it every single day, to make it a part of his inner person by meditating on it. (My Precious Bible)

Shall not depart from your mouth

Joshua literally fulfilled Jehovah’s instructions to not let the Word depart from his mouth. With one half of Israel before Mount Gerizim and the other half before Mount Ebal Joshua…

afterward… read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them. (Joshua 8:34-35)

Joshua remained faithful to this critical instruction even unto his dying day. Knowing that he would soon fall asleep (die) he instructs the people of Israel…

“Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, in order that you may not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them. But you are to cling to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day.” (Joshua 23:6-8)

The last mention of the phrase the “book of the law” is in Joshua 24 just before Joshua dies:

26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD.

27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, lest you deny your God.”

28 Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his inheritance.

29 And it came about after these things that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being one hundred and ten years old.

shall not depart from your mouth” means that this book of the law it should be the constant topic of your conversation. Why? “Because you shall meditate on it day and night.” Now whatever you’re thinking about all day and thinking about all night will show up in your conversation. So he’s saying you ought to be dominated by the Word of God. It is the dominant thing in your life. Meditatively it becomes the dominating thing in your life conversationally. Then it’s into action that he speaks so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. You meditate on it, you talk about it and pretty soon you begin to live it out. Then you will make your way prosperous, then you will have success. But you need to do according to all that is written in it. There are many Christians who can’t do according to all that is written in it because they don’t understand it. And that’s why it’s incumbent upon us to study the Scripture so that we can understand it so that we can do it so that we can be blessed and prosperous and have good success.

But you shall meditate on it day and night

It’s one thing to say to a leader, “Be strong and courageous.” It’s quite something else to enable him or her to do it. Joshua’s strength and courage will come from meditating on the word of God, from believing the promises in it, from living in obedience to its precepts. Moses gave this same counsel to the entire nation back in Dt 11 almost word-for-word. But now God is applying it specifically to Joshua.

God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t throw the food into their nests. In a similar way, the Bible is like a table, laden with nourishing food we need every day: promises, instruction, wisdom, comfort, and encouragement. Like any good host, God invites us to “Come and get it!” But we often fail to do this. We depend on everything but Him and wonder why our faith is feeble. But if like our feathered friends we’ll come and feast daily, expectantly, and actively, our divine Host will provide for all our needs. Depend on it!

In regard to this “book of the law” A W Tozer said…

“Read it much, read it often, brood over it, think over it, meditate over it—meditate on the Word of God day and night. When you are awake at night, think of a helpful verse. When you get up in the morning, no matter how you feel, think of a verse and make the Word of God the important element in your day. The Holy Ghost wrote the Word, and if you make much of the Word, He will make much of you. It is through the Word that He reveals Himself. Between those covers is a living Book. God wrote it and it is still vital and effective and alive. God is in this Book, the Holy Ghost is in this Book, and if you want to find Him, go into this Book.”

For more in depth discussion click Primer On Biblical Meditation or also here.

So that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it” Knowledge of God’s law is not enough; one must also “be careful to do” what it commands. Thus the law of God is to control all thought and action. “Everything written in it” must be observed, because obedience to certain parts only is no obedience at all. When you study the Bible “hit or miss,” you MISS more than you HIT.

For then you will make your way prosperous” generally expresses the idea of a successful venture, as contrasted with failure. The source of such success is God: “… as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper” (2Chr 26:5). The root means to accomplish satisfactorily what is intended. In our lives as Christians, success and prosperity are not to be measured by the physical, material standards of the world. The issue for us is spiritual blessing; spiritual prosperity. We can choose to set out on our own to become materially successful. In the words of our text, that would be turning to the right hand or to the left. But the reality is that we can achieve the goal and live to regret it. There are some famous words by George MacDonald, the Scottish novelist and Christian apologist: “In whatever a man does without God, he must fail miserably or succeed more miserably.” It is possible to know physical and material success and yet be an absolute failure spiritually. Meditating on the Scriptures will help us evaluate our motives in decision-making with regard to success and prosperity. We will learn to ask ourselves the right questions out of the word of God.

Am I totally committed to the will of God in this action, this choice, this endeavor? Am I relying completely on the Spirit of God to empower me, or am I trusting my own resources? Am I serving the glory of God ultimately? If I can answer those questions with a yes, then my ministry, my activity, my relationships will be successful in God’s eyes, no matter what people think and no matter what the physical, material outcome is.

This passage is calling us to think “Biblically”, reading and soaking in and reflecting on the word of God, so that we live “Biblically” in all we say and do.

And then you will have success” The Hebrew word means to be prudent and so to act with insight, which can mean “be successful” by metonymy. The Septuagint (LXX) translates it with Greek word “sunesis” (click) meaning understanding, the idea being able to put together the pieces and make sense out of a set of facts presented to one’s mind. It’s the idea of putting “2” and “2” together so to speak ~ the ability to assess any situation and decide what practical course of action is necessary. And in the context of this verse this “ability” is integrally related to the constant intake & assimilation of the pure milk of God’s Word. The result? Success in the way that God defines “success”.

Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission (Overseas Missionary Fellowship) made a similar statement

“God’s work done in God’s way will not lack God’s supply.”

Not only are God’s presence and power essential for success in His work, but we must also work according to God’s revealed will. It is easy to fall into the trap of substituting human wisdom and understanding for obedience to God’s Word.

Ezra 7:9-10
(see Commentary)

For – Don’t miss this conjunction which introduces an explanation. The natural question is “What does it explain?” which necessitates observing the previous passages where we see that “the good hand of the LORD was upon him”. Why? Because to put it bluntly, Ezra was a “man of the book”, a man like Apollos who was mighty in the Scriptures (Acts 18:24). This is a great model for any preacher who desires to be used mightily by the Lord because he has the Lord’s hand upon him.

God’s sovereign hand of blessing was on Ezra (Ezra 7:69288:182231) because he was so completely immersed in His Word (7:10).

“Had set his heart” (not his head but his heart!) More literally ”Set his heart firmly” which gives the idea that Ezra was inwardly determined. His determination was directed toward: studying, obeying, and teaching God’s Law to others—an inviolable order for a successful ministry! You cannot teach with power until you yourself have practiced what you studied. His heart was prepared by confession of sin (cp notes 1 Peter 2:12:22:3) It is impossible to study the Scriptures profitably with an impure mind.

Ezra “set his heart” to study God’s Word. The phrase “set his heart” conveys the idea of being firmly committed to a particular course of action with unwavering steadfastness. The verb signifies being “established, prepared, fixed” in a determined pursuit. For example the same root is used to portray God’s intentional acts when He established the heavens (Pr 3:198:27). Thus the expression carries the idea of a determined purpose and unwavering resolution to act in a prescribed way to bring something to pass.

His mind “was zeroed in on the primary intention of studying God’s Word.”

Heart” refers not to his intellect per se only for in Hebrew “heart” speaks of that which rules one’s very being –the seat of affections, emotions, desires. The “heart,” in which Ezra purposed to study the Scriptures connotes “the totality of man’s inner or immaterial nature”

The Hebrew word for “heart” represents the center or middle of something, often referring to the physical heart, the blood-pumping organ which supplies life for the entire body. However, of the approximately 850 times it occurs in the Old Testament, its most common meaning is spiritual, signifying a person’s inner or immaterial being—his or her mind, emotions, and will. Thus the heart denotes the intellect, by which one thinks, analyzes, compares, and understands a matter (1Kings 3:122Kings 5:262Chr 9:23Pr 11:1216:23); the emotions, or the deepest innermost feelings of a person (Pr 17:2225:20); and the volition, the seat of the will where choices are made (Nu 16:28Judges 9:32Chr 12:14). When Ezra set “his heart” to study the Word he poured the whole spectrum of his inner life into doing so. In other words, the study of Scripture absolutely consumed his life.

John Bunyan, seventeenth-century English preacher and author, was also consumed with the study of God’s Word. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who read Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress every year, once remarked, “He had studied our Authorized Version … till his whole being was saturated with Scripture; and through his writings … he … [makes] us feel and say ‘Why, this man is living Bible! Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.’ ”

Study (darash 1875 KJV = “seek”) Hebrew verb carries meanings of seeking with care, inquiring, pursuing, searching, which gives a good picture of how Ezra approached the law of the LORD. The Septuagint (LXX) uses “zeteo” (see Matthew 6:33note) which conveys the idea of attempting to learn something by careful investigation or searching (cf Proverbs 2:12345).

For example this word was used when Moses “searched carefully” to find out what happened to the sin offering (Lev 10:16) or when David “inquired” to find out who Bathsheba was (2Sa 11:3). Ezra studied the Word by carefully searching it, investigating its truths, probing its parts, surveying its whole, striving to understand its meaning, being concerned to grasp its message, leaving no stone unturned. He was not content to skim the surface and gain a superficial knowledge of the text.

Martin Luther said,

When I was young, I read the Bible over and over and over again, and was so perfectly acquainted with it, that I could, in an instant, have pointed to any verse that might have been mentioned.

He also wrote, “For a number of years I have now annually read through the Bible twice. If the Bible were a large, mighty tree and all its words were little branches, I have tapped at all the branches, eager to know what was there and what it had to offer.”

Martin Luther is reported to have said concerning his own study of the Scriptures:

“I study my Bible as I gather apples. First, I shake the whole tree that the ripest might fall. Then I shake each limb, and when I have shaken each limb, I shake each branch and every twig. Then I look under every leaf. I shake the Bible as a whole, like shaking the whole tree. Then I shake every limb—study book after book. Then I shake every branch, giving attention to the chapters when they do not break the sense. Then I shake every twig, or a careful study of the paragraphs and sentences and words and their meanings.”

John Piper writes,

At the heart of every pastor’s work is bookwork. Call it reading, meditation, reflection, cogitation, study, exegesis, or whatever you will—a large and central part of our work is to wrestle God’s meaning from a book, and then to proclaim it in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Practice it… A good leader is one who… Knows the way, Goes the way, and Shows the way. Knowing without doing is arrogance not obedience. The Hebrew word for “practice” carries the idea of expending energy in the pursuit of something.

A good pattern for ministry — learn it, live it, and let it out

Ezra mastered the Word, and the Word mastered him. His careful study led to a holy life. His personal integrity became the platform from which he carried out his public teaching ministry. What he learned in the Scriptures, he lived. Thus after he studied the Word and before he preached it, he was careful to obey it.

Ezra obeyed the Word with the same “heart” devotion with which he studied it. A class of scribes arose in Jesus’ day who sought to follow the Law, but not from the heart. With full heads but empty hearts, these scribes attempted to teach the Word, which prompted Jesus to say,

This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me” (Mt 15:8).

Ezra, however, was a scribe who wholeheartedly kept the Word, not with mere external ritual or empty routine, but with a deep internal desire.

Moody said,

God did not give us the Scriptures to increase our knowledge but to change our lives

Tozer wrote

Theological truth is useless until it is obeyed. The purpose behind all doctrine is to secure moral action.

Thomas Adams wrote that

True obedience has no lead at its heels.

Teach conveys the idea of training as well as educating. Biblical teaching seeks to guide people to follow the will of God, not by offering mere human opinions or suggestions but by bringing “the authoritative declaration of the Word of God.”

Stott suggests, it is

to open the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and His people obey Him.

Many preachers bear more resemblance to entertainers than expositors, stand-up comics rather than knee-shaking servants. God-fearing, Scripture-reverencing men remain the need of the hour in pulpits today.

John Knox, the great Scottish Reformer said

I have never once feared the devil, but I tremble every time I enter the pulpit.

Where are such men who, like Knox, tremble when they open the Word of God?

Statues and ordinances” The scribes in the early years at the time of Ezra and before were so devoted to not putting an error in the Scriptures that they would copy the Scriptures with such fastidiousness it’s just beyond belief. Some scribes, you’ll find this hard to believe, would write one letter, take a bath, change their clothes, get a new pen, write another letter, take a bath, change their clothes, get a pen, write another letter. They didn’t get a lot done but what they got done was correct. There was this tremendous fastidiousness to this completion of the inerrant text and its preservation.

This comprehensive threefold designation—the Law of the Lord, statutes, and ordinances—indicates that he studied all facets of God’s Word. Tradition says he was the founder of the Great Synagogue where the Old Testament canon was first recognized

Every person is important to God and God’s work; but, as Dr. Lee Roberson has often said,

Everything rises and falls with leadership.

McConville has written

The model teacher in Ezra is a doer. And the doer can be no mere demonstrator. He must be what he would have his disciples be.

Every preacher should follow Ezra’s example and be committed to the study of the Scriptures in a way that is consuming, careful, and comprehensive. Pastors must guard against the seemingly endless, mounting pressures placed on them to sacrifice their study of the Word on the altar of their growing list of “priorities.”

The day the preacher stops studying God’s Word, whether he realizes it or not, is the day he begins losing spiritual passion and vitality in his preaching.

A shrinking study time may result in shrinking power in the pulpit.

Billy Graham was asked,

If you had to live your life over again, what would you do differently?

He answered

“One of my great regrets is that I have not studied enough, I wish I had studied more and preached less. People have pressured me into speaking to groups when I should have been studying and preparing. Donald Grey Barnhouse said that if he knew the Lord was coming in three years, he would spend two of them studying and one preaching.”

The church needs more men like John Wesley, the powerful eighteenth-century preacher who cried out,

O give me that Book! At any price, give me the book of God.

Jeremiah 15:16
(See commentary)

Whenever Jeremiah began to relish God’s Word, it had become his delight and a joy to his soul in contrast to the majority of people who despised it in Jeremiah 8:9

“”The wise men are put to shame, They are dismayed and caught; Behold, they have rejected (despised, spurned, disdained, scorned, loathed) the word of the LORD, and what kind of wisdom do they have?”

J Vernon McGee writes that Jeremiah…

He found his consolation in it. He ate it and he digested it and it became a part of him. Oh, how we need to get into the Word of God today. We don’t need just a little surface learning of a few rules, or just a little guideline of a few steps to take. We need to digest it so that it becomes part of our being. It will bring joy and rejoicing to the heart just as it did for Jeremiah. Only the Word of God can do this.

I received a letter from a man who heard our broadcast when I was in Galatians. He heard one word: Father. That arrested his attention. May I say to you that God is still using His Word today. Oh, how important the Word of God is!

Jeremiah is in real difficulty. Remember that his hometown rejected him and got rid of him. His own family rejected him. His life is actually in danger. (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)

Warren Wiersbe notes that Jeremiah…

The prophet experienced the loneliness of leadership and the anguish of ministry, but God encouraged him as he fed on the Word. God may not take away the pain in your heart, but He can balance it with His joy. (Wiersbe, W: With the Word: Chapter-by-Chapter Bible Handbook. Nelson)

Not hungry for God’s Word? Then make the words of the godly hymn writer Isaac Watts your prayer…

Then let me love my Bible more
And take a fresh delight
By day to read these wonders o’er
And meditate by night.

Matthew 4:4

The parallel passage in Luke 4:1-3 gives the context for the Matthew 4 passage…

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days; and when they had ended, He became hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Man shall not live on bread alone

“Most of us are familiar with the Pony Express and its oft-romanticized contribution to the history of the Old West. But for all its glamour, the Pony Express was a business enterprise-and was run like one. To ferry mail across the open expanse of the western territories, the express route ran 1,900 miles from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. The trip was made in about 10 days, using 40 men who each raced about 50 miles, riding a total of 500 fine horses in the process. To conserve weight, riders wore light clothing, rode on extremely small saddles, and carried no weapons. Their mail pouches were also compact and lightweight. Letters cost $5 per ounce for postage. Yet for all these efficiencies in terms of weight, one thing was not sacrificed: every rider carried a full-size Bible, presented to him when he joined the Pony Express. By contrast, how often are we found without the Word of God at our side, in our day of comfort and convenience?”

Every word…

To get a properly balanced diet, we must feed on the whole Bible. Certain chapters and verses in the Bible are like pie and cake to our souls, and the temptation is to read them often and to try to live by them alone, neglecting the rest of the Scripture. Jesus said, “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”. Every Christian should read and ponder & meditate IN (Ps 1:2) the Bible, chapter after chapter, book after book, until finished and then go back and start over again. Only in this way can we get the benefit of “every word” that God has spoken. Let us not skip the “dry” chapters for in them will be found many of the brightest gems of spiritual truths. Let us read the OT as much as the NT for it is the foundation upon which the NT is built. Is there not a tendency in most sound, conservative, Bible believing churches to emphasize the NT sometimes to the virtual exclusion of the OT. This will lead to spiritual “tunnel vision” and the sheep will not be fully nourished as God intended them to be on a complete healthy diet that partakes of both Old and New Testaments.

Are you starving yourself spiritually? Do even know what the symptoms of such a malady would look like? Then you need to read the following devotional from Our Daily Bread (bolding added):

Many of us live in countries where food is abundant and people are well-fed. That’s why we may not be familiar with the symptoms of starvation. At the outset, victims have an insatiable craving for nourishment. As time passes, however, the body weakens, the mind is dulled, and the desire for something to eat wanes. In fact, starving people actually reach a point when they don’t even want food that is placed before them. Spiritual starvation follows much the same course. If we have been feeding daily on God’s Word, it’s natural to feel “hungry” when we skip our quiet time. But if we continue to neglect it, we may lose all desire to study the Scriptures. In fact, we may be starving ourselves. How much time do you spend reading the Bible and meditating on its truths? Do you miss the Word when you neglect it? Thomas Guthrie wrote, “If you find yourself loving any pleasure better than your prayers, any book better than the Bible, any persons better than Christ, or any indulgence better than the hope of heaven–take alarm.” If you’ve lost your taste for the “bread of life,” confess your negligence and ask God to revive your appetite for His Word. Avoid spiritual starvation! –R W De Haan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Break Thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
As Thou didst break the loaves beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord;
My spirit pants for Thee, O Living Word. –Lathbury

A well-read Bible is a sign of a well-fed soul.

Job 23:10-12
(see commentary)

Hidden” (Hebrew tsaphan 6845) means to hide or to keep secret and is used of concealing something of great value, e.g., baby Moses (Ex 2:2), the Israelite spies (by Rahab in Joshua 2:4). Figuratively as in Psalm 119:11 and here by Job tsaphan refers of keeping something hidden in a person’s heart.

My “amplified” paraphrase of the Septuagint (LXX) based additional insight on the Greek words is…

Neither (double negative in the Greek “ou” = absolute negation & “me” relative no ~ so Job is saying in essence “absolutely no way”) do I neglect, overlook or transgress from His precepts, but I have hidden (Active voice = personal choice to do this… sounds like he has memorized God’s Word!) His uttered or spoken words in my bosom, because the bosom is the place of honor and close fellowship.

I have not departed from the command of His lips” This the very thing that Joshua was instructed not to do Joshua 1:8, although at the moment Job declared this fact, he was far from experiencing success and making his way prosperous (at least from mankind’s perspective) as promised to those who do not let the word depart from their lips. Clearly as we read his story, Job is a man who is suffering more than any of us will ever understand, and yet in the face of such affliction has affirms that he ”shall come forth as gold”. How did he know he would come forth as gold, a question which emphasizes the importance of examining the context to accurately answer this question. Job instead of being like “gold” was more like a man whose soul cleaved to the dust. And yet as Job 23:12 states, he knew God’s Word and even more importantly he had experienced intimacy with God through His Word. He trusted His Father’s refining hand. How else could he have said “”He knows the way I take. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” and not have been a hypocrite?

A New Testament way of saying one has not departed from the command is to abide in the Word (“Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;” John 8:31), to let the Word of Christ richly dwell within (“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” see Colossians 3:16note)

It is interesting and surprising that the NRSV & RSV don’t have the last phrase “more than my necessary food” (I have not researched why this is… it is simply an observation)… RSV reads “I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured in my bosom the words of his mouth. ” KJV, NKJV, NIV, ASV, TLB all have this phrase… could be a difference in the original Hebrew manuscript?

Job was not perfect but He had a perfect God Who was behind the scenes keeping His hand on the “thermostat” of affliction and suffering so that his choice servant would be refined rather than burned. Some people go into the furnace of affliction, and it burns them, whereas others go in, and the experience purifies them. What makes the difference? Their attitude toward the Word of God, the God of the Word and His will for their life. If we are continually, daily taking in the “bread” every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God and humbling ourselves in submission to His will which is good and acceptable and perfect, the furnace experience, painful as it may be at the moment, will refine us and make us better. (see 1Pe 1:6note1Pe 1:7note) But if we resist God’s will and fail to feed on His truth, the furnace experience will only burn us and make us bitter (See Ruth 1:20 note) for a time when Naomi had her focus more on her problems — which in fairness were many & were severe — than on her Deliverer).

Lord, Be Thy Word My Rule

In it may I rejoice;
Thy glory be my aim;
Thy holy will my choice.
Thy promises my hope;
Thy providence my guard;
Thine arm my strong support;
Thyself my great Reward.
–C. Wordsworth

Would you cook a meal for yourself even if you didn’t feel like cooking? You probably would reasoning something like this — “Yes, food is necessary, and I know I need to eat or I will become anemic, weak and tired.” How do we answer the same question when it comes to spiritual food, the Living Word of God? Did you skip your time in His Word today or maybe even all week long? If your answer is, “Yes, I was too tired, too busy, too down, etc, etc… to study God’s Word,” then consider Job, remembering the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews to fellow Hebrews who in the face of their great conflict of suffering exhorted …

“we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (see notes Hebrews 6:1112)

James adding that…

You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. (James 5:11)

You may be saying “Well, at least I read Our Daily Bread (one of the best devotionals available in my opinion) every morning before I go to work.” If so you might be intrigued by the caveat written by Our Daily Bread’s founder Dr. M R DeHaan…

“Hold everything! Wait a minute! Have you read the Scripture for today? It’s only eight short verses, and it will take you only 45 seconds. No, don’t lay this booklet down and mumble to me, “I’m in a hurry and you’re delaying me.” I see you’re eating breakfast this morning even though you’re late. You take time to feed your body, but you were going to starve your soul. Take 45 seconds and read Psalm 119:3334353637383940. If you don’t read the rest of this devotional, that’s okay–as long as you read the Bible. These articles in Our Daily Bread are not designed to be a substitute for the Bible; they are meant to stimulate your desire to read more of the Bible. If reading this booklet has caused you to neglect the Word of God, please throw this booklet in the wastebasket!” Job said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). Jesus taught, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). Yes, you may have had a rough day yesterday and you’re way behind. But why should you be surprised that it was such a bad day if you started it without God’s Word? Don’t make the same mistake today. Take time to read.” (DeHaan, M. R. — founder of the ministry) (Bolding added) (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


Isa 66:1,2 Thus says the LORD “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things. Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look. To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

Spurgeon comments: God will dwell with those that tremble at His word. Now the man that is in a right state for God to dwell in, trembles at God’s word because he believes it to be all true.

If thou doubt God’s word, between God and thee there is a disagreement, a rupture, a quarrel; and God never will dwell in thy soul.

The trembler believes it to be all true, and therefore he trembles.

As he reads the law, he says, “Thy holy law condemns me.” He trembles at the threatenings of that law, for he feels he deserves them to be fulfilled on him. And when the gospel comes, and he receives it and rejoices in it he trembles at it, — trembles at the love that looked upon him from all eternity, — trembles that he should have nailed the Savior to the cross, — trembles lest, after all, he should not be washed in the precious blood, and he trembles after he is washed, lest he should not walk as blood-washed spirits should.

These things are so high and sublime, that he trembles beneath the burden of the glory that he should receive.

He trembles at the promise. “O Lord,” saith he, “let that sweet promise be mine,” and he trembles lest he should miss it, — trembles at a precept lest he should misunderstand it, or not carry it out in a proper spirit. He is not like some, who say of certain precepts, “These are non-essential.” “No,” says the man of God, “I tremble at what you call a non-essential precept.”

If there be an ordinance, ordained of God in scripture, and others slight it and say it is trivial, the man of God, says, “No, to me it is not trivial or unimportant. Anything that is in the word of God and has the stamp of his approval, I tremble at.”

Some one once said to an old Puritan, “Some have made such rents in their conscience, that you might make a little nick in yours. There is no reason why you should be so precise;” but the other replied, “I serve a precise God.”

The God of Israel is a jealous God, and His people know it. Moses was not permitted to enter Canaan, for such a sin that you can hardly tell what it was, — it seemed such a little one; yet was he shut out from the land of promise for it; for God is more particular with those that are near to Him than with others.

He is jealous with those that are at Court; and He that leans his head on His bosom must expect the great Savior to be stricter with him than with any of those that are without.

Oh, beloved, we must tremble at God’s word.

We know we shall enter heaven if we are believers in Jesus, but we tremble lest by any means we should mar our evidence of being inheritors of that goodly land.

We know the love of God will never cast us away; we know the eternal love will never reject those it has chosen; but we tremble lest we should abuse that grace.

The more gracious the doctrines we hear and believe, the more we tremble, lest we should sin against such a gracious God. We go through the world trembling and rejoicing.

Now, if that is our condition, God saith He will dwell with us. Oh, there are some of you dear hearts here that could not lay hold on this text anywhere, except on this particular point. You can say, “Oh, sir, I do tremble under God’s word. How often under a sermon you make me quiver from head to foot; and, when I am reading the Bible alone, I am melted into tears with it.”

Dear brother, I am glad of that, I am glad of that; for a holy trembling is a sign of life. If you can quiver before the eternal majesty of God’s voice, you are not altogether like the stocks and stones, — not altogether dead in trespasses and sins. See then (for I will say no more upon it) what a blessed thing it is to be of this character, that God will dwell with us. (Read Spurgeon’s full message on this passage – Living Temples for the Living God)


If you would find God, He dwelleth on every hilltop and in every valley; God is everywhere in creation; but if you want a special display of Him, if you would know what is the secret place of the tabernacle of the Most High, the inner chamber of divinity, you must go where you find the church of true believers, for it is here he makes His continual residence known—in the hearts of the humble and contrite, who tremble at His word. Every church is to our Lord a more sublime thing than a constellation in the heavens; as He is precious to His saints, so are they precious to Him. (Daily Help)


To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word.” Stoop if you would climb to heaven. Do we not say of Jesus, “He descended that He might ascend?” So must you. You must grow downwards, that you may grow upwards; for the sweetest fellowship with heaven is to be had by humble souls, and by them alone. God will deny no blessing to a thoroughly humbled spirit. Humility makes us ready to be blessed by the God of all grace, and fits us to deal efficiently with our fellow-men. Whether it be prayer or praise, whether it be work or suffering, the genuine salt of humility cannot be used in excess. (Daily Help)


Many despise warning, and perish. Happy is he who trembles at the word of the Lord. Josiah did so, and he was spared the sight of the evil which the Lord determined to send upon Judah because of her great sins. Have you this tenderness? Do you practice this self-humiliation? Then you also shall be spared in the evil day. God sets a mark upon the men that sigh and cry because of the sin of the times. The destroying angel is commanded to keep his sword in its sheath till the elect of God are sheltered: these are best known by their godly fear, and their trembling at the Word of the Lord. (Faith’s Checkbook)


2 Kings 22:11 (Josiah was a “trembler”) And it came about when the king heard the words of the book of the law, that he tore his clothes.

He was of a tender spirit, and trembled at the word of the Lord, when he saw the evils sin had brought upon the nation. (Spurgeon – The Interpreter)


1 John 2:14 … I have written to you, young men because you are strong and the word of God abides (present tense = continually) in you and you have overcome the evil one

The Word in the Heart

“The Word of God abideth in you.” I labour under the opinion that there never was a time in which the people of God had greater need to understand this passage than now. We have entered upon that part of the pilgrim path which is described by Bunyan as the Enchanted Ground: the Church and the world appear to be alike bewitched with folly. Half the people of God hardly know their head from their heels at this time. They are gaping after wonders, running after a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal, and waiting for yet more astounding inventions. Everything seems to be in a whirligig; a tornado has set in, and the storm is everywhere. Christians used to believe in Christ as their Leader, and the Bible as their rule; but some of them are pleased with lords and rules such as He never knew! Believe me, there will soon come new Messiahs. Men are already pretending to work miracles, we shall soon have false Christs; and “Lo! here,” and “Lo! there,” will be heard on all sides. Anchors are up, winds are out, and the whole fleet is getting into confusion. Men in whose sanity and stability I once believed, are being carried away with one fancy or another, and I am driven to cry, “What next? and what next?” We are only at the beginning of an era of mingled unbelief and fanaticism. Now we shall know who are God’s elect and who are not; for there are spirits abroad at this hour that would, if it were possible, deceive even the very elect; and those who are not deceived are, nevertheless, sorely put to it. Here is the patience of the saints; let him look to himself who is not rooted and grounded in Christ, for the hurricane is coming. The signs of the times indicate a carnival of delusions; men have ceased to be guided by the Word, and claim to be themselves prophets. Now we shall see what we shall see. Blessed is the sheep that knows his Shepherd, and will not listen to the voice of strangers. But here is the way to be kept steadfast—”The Word of God abideth in you.”

“The Word of God”—that is to say, we are to believe in the doctrines of God’s Word, and these will make us strong. What vigour they infuse! Get the Word well into you, and you will overcome the wicked one. When the devil tempted Luther, the Reformer’s grand grip of justification by faith made him readily victorious. Keep you a fast hold of the doctrines of grace, and Satan will soon give over attacking you, for they are like plate-armour, through which no dart can ever force its way.

The promises of God’s Word, too, what power they give! To get a hold of a “shall” and “will” in the time of trouble is a heavenly safeguard. “My God will hear me.” “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.” These are Divine holdfasts. Oh, how strong a man is for overcoming the wicked one when he has such a promise to hand! Do not trust yourself out of a morning in the street till you have laid a promise under your tongue. I see people put respirators on in foggy weather; they do not make them look very lovely, but I daresay they are useful. I recommend the best respirator for the pestilential atmosphere of this present evil world when I bid you fit a promise to your lips. Did not the Lord rout the tempter in the wilderness with that promise, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall man live”? Get the promises of God to lodge within you, and you will be strong.

Then mind the precepts, for a precept is often a sharp weapon against Satan. Remember how the Lord Jesus Christ struck Satan a killing blow by quoting a precept—”It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” If the precept had not been handy, wherewith would the adversary have been rebuked? Nor is a threatening at all a weak weapon. The most terrible threatenings of God’s Word against sin are the best helps for Christians when they are tempted to sin:—How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? How should I escape if I turned away from Him who speaketh from heaven? Tell Satan the threatenings, and make him tremble. Every word of God is life to holiness and death to sin. Use the Word as your sword and shield: there is none like it.

Now notice that John not only mentions “the Word of God,” but the Word of God “in you.” The inspired Word must be received into a willing mind. How? The Book which lies there is to be pleaded here, in the inmost heart, by the work of the Holy Ghost upon the mind. All of this letter has to be translated into spirit and life. “The Word of God abideth in you”—that is, first to know it,—next to remember it and treasure it up in your heart. Following upon this, we must understand it, and learn the analogy of faith by comparing spiritual things with spiritual till we have learned the system of Divine truth, and are able to set it forth and plead for it. It is, next, to have the Word in your affections, to love it so that it is as honey or the droppings of the honeycomb to you. When this is the case, you must and shall overcome the wicked one. A man instructed in the Scriptures is like an armed knight, who when he goes among the throng inflicts many a wound, but suffers none, for he is locked up in steel.

Yes, but that is not all; it is not the Word of God in you alone, it is “the Word of God abideth in you.” It is always there, it cannot be removed from you. If a man gets the Bible right into him, he is all right then, because he is full, and there is no room for evil. When you have filled a measure full of wheat, you have effectually shut the chaff out. Men go after novel and false doctrines because they do not really know the truth; for if the truth had gotten into them and filled them, they would not have room for these day-dreams. A man who truly knows the doctrines of grace is never removed from them: I have heard our opponents rave at what they call obstinacy. Once get the truth really into you, it will enter into the texture of your being, and nothing will get it out of you. It will also be your strength, by setting you watching against every evil thing. You will be on your guard if the Word abide in you, for it is written, “When thou goest it will keep thee.” The Word of God will be to you a bulwark and a high tower (Ed: cp Pr 30:5618:10Ps 20:1), a castle of defence against the foe. Oh, see to it that the Word of God is in you, in your very soul, permeating your thoughts, and so operating upon your outward life, that all may know you to be a true Bible-Christian, for they perceive it in your words and deeds.

Courtesy of preceptaustin.org at https://www.preceptaustin.org/the_power_of_gods_word#Bible%20-%20The%20Word%20of%20God

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How Do We Respond to Tribulation?

The Greek word for “tribulation” in the New Testament is thlipsis which means to press, squeeze, compress, and crush. It is to be pressed into a narrow place. It was used to describe the squeezing of olives in a press to extract oil and the squeezing of grapes to produce juice. It conveys the idea of being forcefully squeezed under intense pressure or crushed beneath a heavy weight. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia adds that: “Thlipsis derives from roots that graphically portray that in which a person is first limited, then walled in and gradually squeezed until something must give.”[i]

When you squeeze something, what is on the inside comes out. What is coming out of our hearts when they are squeezed and placed under crushing pressure? When mental distresses, difficult outward circumstances and troublesome afflictions press into our hearts with an enormous weight and burden, what happens? Do these intense pressures crush the life of God from our hearts? What flows from our hearts when the temptations of life powerfully squeeze us from the inside and the outside? How do our hearts respond?

The Lesson of Joseph

Thlipsis is the word to describe what Joseph went through before He was made governor in Egypt. This gives a vivid mind picture and also shows us what was in the heart of Joseph. What crushing pressure he faced mentally and physically, yet his heart remained steadfast to God and he never caved in to thlipsis.

Joseph’s own brothers hated him and when the opportunity arose, they thrust him into an empty pit. After this they sold him into slavery to a passing caravan. Joseph was bought and taken out of his homeland into Egypt. Imagine how this must have felt! The burden and sadness that must have pressed into his heart! His own flesh and blood despised him so much that they plotted his death. Only Reuben saved him from being murdered by his brothers. When he was cast down by his own family into this abandoned pit in the wilderness without food or water, he had no idea if he would get out. What crushing weight must have squeezed his heart!

His brother Rueben recalled the anguishing pleas of Joseph from the dungeon in Genesis 42:21: “We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear …” Joseph soul was in anguish over the cruel actions of his brothers and he desperately pled with them to let him go, but they were silent. Joseph greatly loved his brethren and their betrayal of him was an overwhelming discouragement to his heart. How would our hearts handle this situation? How would hearts respond to this type of pressure?

The mutiny of his brothers was bad enough, but his life took another shocking turn. Suddenly he was sold as a slave to a traveling band of Ishmaelites. He no longer was a free man. In an instant he became a slave, a piece of property to be bought and sold. Joseph would be taken as a slave for a mere twenty pieces of silver into a foreign country away from everything familiar to him. His life would never be the same. He wandered if he would ever see his father again or his brothers whom he still loved.

Can you imagine the enormous weight of these life-changing circumstances? The mental pressure and trauma of slavery were added to the crushing pressure of betrayal by his brothers. How do you think his heart felt?

Are you beginning to get a mind picture of this word thlipsis? How would our hearts react to this thlipsis? Would we become offended in our God? Would we accuse God of unfaithfulness? Would we blame God in bitterness and frustration because of our overwhelming predicament? Would we lose faith and confidence in our God? Would our hearts wither under the scorching heart of betrayal and indifference?

On the surface, it looked like God had forsaken Joseph during this calamity, but nothing could be further from the truth. God was with Joseph every step of the way during this intense thlipsis period of his life. God blessed Joseph with his new master Potiphar and he found grace in his sight and was made overseer of all his possessions. Potiphar was a very powerful man in Egypt, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of his guard.

But he had an unfaithful wife who lustfully desired Joseph. She relentlessly pursued Joseph to have sex with her, but Joseph refused to sin against his God and dishonor his master. Potiphar’s wife was furious when she was rebuffed so she grabbed his garment and falsely accused him of attempted rape. She claimed he was mocking his master with such a detestable act.

Suddenly Joseph lost all favor with Potiphar and was thrust into a dungeon reserved for enemies of the state, those who were a threat to the kingdom of Egypt. Thlipsis had returned to the heart of Joseph with a vengeance as he felt the intense crushing pressure of being jailed in a dungeon over false accusations and losing his trusted position in Potiphar’s household. He was completely innocent, but no one would listen. Would he be freed from the dark captivity of this dungeon or see the light of day again?

Have you ever been falsely accused? Have you ever been thrown into prison when you are innocent and without any fault? How would your heart respond to this squeezing and what would come out?

Joseph remained in this dungeon for at least two years and despite this daily thlipsis, Joseph never lost his faith in God. How rooted his heart must have been in God and His faithfulness to deliver! God was with Joseph and showed him mercy, giving him favor with the keeper of the prison. Joseph was in charge of all the prisoners because God made him prosper. Joseph had the joy of the Lord overflowing from his heart even in the midst of all his trouble. Thlipsis never stole his joy. Joseph even asked the chief butler and chief baker why they were so sad. Joseph was not miserable in prison as the presence of God was a living reality in his heart.

After interpreting both the baker and butler’s dreams, Joseph asked the chief butler to remember him and tell Pharaoh he did nothing wrong to merit prison. However, thlipsis returned as Joseph was forgotten by Pharaoh’s butler, and he never brought up Joseph’s injustice to the Pharaoh for two years. Each day Joseph waited, but nothing happened. Joseph felt the crushing pressure of being forsaken again, yet he did not uproot his heart from God.

Imagine the thlipsis that Joseph endured! He was stolen from his homeland, subject to the cruelty of his own flesh and blood. He was cast into a political dungeon as an innocent man, and forgotten by a friend who failed to take any action to get him out of prison.

Although the exact amount of time this thlipsis lasted is not known, I believe it was in the neighborhood of 10-13 years! Could our hearts remain faithful God and rooted in His promises during 13 years of extreme thlipsis? Would we be crushed into the ground by this relentless pressure?

Throughout this long period of intense pressure, Joseph never wavered in His love for God. He did not complain to God or become overwhelmed by his circumstances. Joseph never allowed a root of bitterness to grow in his heart because of the injustice, unfairness and cruelty that he faced in life. Joseph did not become offended against God because everything seemed to be working against him. He did not believe he was forgotten, forsaken or abandoned by God. He did not allow thlipsis to destroy his heart for God. His faith in God was never shaken.

God honored Joseph’s steadfastness. He blessed, protected, and prospered Him for his heart was fiercely loyal to God. God was alive to Joseph in his daily living. Acts 7:9,10 declares that “God was with him (Joseph) and delivered him out of all his afflictions (thlipsis).” God gave Joseph grace even in the midst of thlipsis’s most trying circumstances.

No matter how crushing the pressure, or how hard we are being squeezed, or how heavy the burden, God can deliver us from every thlipsis. Joshua 10:14 boldly declares that no idol can rescue us from thlipsis. Only God’s power and strength can be victorious over any thlipsis that grips the heart. The Parable of the Sower and the Seed makes it clear that how we respond to thlipsis is determined by the deepness of our root in God’s Word.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation (thlipsis). But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, ESV)

The world specializes in thlipsis. As long as we live in this world, our heart will have to deal with thlipsis. Our heart will be tested with thlipsis to determine the genuineness of our faith and the deepness of our root system in Christ. Will our heart withstand the test of thlipsis and stand strong on the Word or when the blistering heart of the sun comes, wilt away?

Jesus Christ: Our Example in Times of Thlipsis

Thlipsis is nothing to Jesus Christ. He endured the worst thlipsis ever known to mankind in the ordeal of the crucifixion. His sweat was like great drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane in intense prayer to his Heavenly Father. The weight of our sin became a deep and crushing weight to his soul. He was about to go through forty hours of beatings, mocking, torture, physical disfigurement, and unbearable pain. He would not even resemble a human being, but a bloody pulp of flesh. He endured this brutal physical punishment to pay the price for our sin and crush the power of the kingdom of darkness, ushering us as citizens into his kingdom.

Thlipsis never turned the heart of Jesus Christ from his Heavenly Father. He accomplished salvation and eternal life for all those who will come to Him because he did not allow thlipsis to squeeze the life of God out of his heart. He did not permit thlipsis to offend him. He did not allow his heart to melt under the sweltering heat of thlipsis as he became the captain of our salvation and accomplished the greatest triumph the heaven and earth has ever seen.

Only in Jesus Christ can we be victorious over thlipsis. Only in Jesus Christ will our root system flourish. Only in Jesus Christ can we endure and overcome the blistering heat of the kosmos, the entire system that the Devil has set up as the Prince of the Power of the Air.

We do not belong to this world. We are citizens of another kingdom. The world hates Jesus Christ, who as the light of the world, exposed its love and worship of evil. The world hates the Word of God, which exposes the error of its ways and the lies it so adores. The world will pursue with intense hatred all those rooted in Christ, relentlessly pressuring them to denounce Christ and reject His Word. The spirit of the world is fierce and it will come at us with persistent pressure to squeeze our hearts into its mold. The spirit of the world is out to destroy our growth in Christ and eradicate the living Word from our hearts. We must withstand its thlipsis if we want our hearts to shine forth with the beauty of Christ.

Can your heart stand the pressure of being labeled a bigot, a fool, an idiot, a religious nut, a deceiver, a fanatic and an extremist? Can you stand the heat of standing against this world system that defies the living God and become a spiritual rebel against all the forces of darkness that embrace every level of our culture. Only in Jesus Christ can we withstand this pressure and emerge triumphant over every burden and weight thrown at our heart.

Thlipsis and the Birth of the Extraordinary

God always births something extraordinary in the heart when we come through a season of thlipsis still firmly rooted in Christ and the Word of God.

Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish (thlipsis) because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. (John 16:21, NASB)

God uses the word “thlipsis” to describe the anguish the female body endures in labor. There is intense pain as she tries to squeeze and push the baby from her body, but nothing compares to the joy of giving birth to a new child. The woman is pregnant with something extraordinary and amazing with a wonderful, beautiful baby forming in her womb. But she has to go through a period of thlipsis before the child is born into the world.

Likewise our heart is pregnant with the extraordinary plans, purposes and works of God Almighty, but it is only when we come through the labor pains of thlipsis that the heart gives birth to something extraordinary. So many Christians never give birth to the extraordinary, because in the time of thlipsis, they get scorched. How tragic that we never give birth to God’s amazing plans and purposes for our life because under the crushing pressure of thlipsis we have a miscarriage. We fail to give birth to God’s breathtaking fruit because our root system is shallow in God and cannot endure the labor pains of childbirth.

Look what was birthed out of the heart of Joseph when he passed the thlipsis test. Joseph became ruler over all of Egypt and second in command only to Pharaoh. What an extraordinary thing God birthed in the heart of Joseph to go from a slave, condemned in prison, to a ruler of a mighty kingdom.

Jesus Christ endured the intense thlipsis of the crucifixion and bearing the sin of the human race, but now he is seated at the right hand of God having obtained eternal redemption for all those who believe. He obliterated the power of Satan’s kingdom, conquered sin and death, and will establish forever his kingdom as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

David remained faithful to God during the relentless thlipsis caused by King Saul who used the might of his kingdom to try to assassinate God’s chosen king. God birthed an extraordinary calling and work in the heart of David as he became the greatest king in the history of Israel and a man after God’s own heart.

The Apostle Paul was deeply rooted in Christ and the Word of God and endured great thlipsis during his journeys to spread the gospel. He suffered beatings, stoning, false accusations, imprisonment, shipwreck, hunger, weariness, riots and persecution. He proved himself a minister of God through thlipsis and became one of the most influential Christians who has ever lived. He penned, through the inspiration of God, a great part of the New Testament and established the gospel in many parts of the world. His ministry turned the world upside down, and he shook the gates of hell with the truth of the gospel. God birthed such an extraordinary thing in the heart of Paul as he turned people from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.

We must never allow thlipsis to cause a miscarriage of God’s extraordinary plans and purposes for us by allowing its crushing pressure to scorch the seed of the Word of God from our hearts.

[i] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume Four: Q-Z, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1988), 913.

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The Amazing Truth of Jesus Christ as The Second Adam

Jesus Christ is called the Second Adam in Scripture which is a phenomenal truth that embodies everything from his triumph victory over  the devil’s kingdom to his finished work of redemption with his death and resurrection. To understand this truth more, let’s begin in the book of Genesis with the curse of the serpent (figure of speech hypocatastasis for the devil) which is brought to triumphant culmination in Jesus Christ.

Genesis 3:14 (KJV):

And the LORD God said unto the serpent,

Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed

above all cattle, and above every beast

(chayyah-living thing) of the field; upon

thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou

eat all the days of your life.

God reserved the harshest judgment and strongest curse for His archenemy, the devil, as revealed in verses 14 and 15. It was a proclamation of the death penalty; it was an announcement of his ultimate destruction, and it was a message that his future was doomed. Just when it appeared Satan had achieved a great victory, God boldly confronted him with a firm declaration of his annihilation. There was no discussion, no debate, and no question as sentence was at once pronounced. Satan did not get off the hook, but was cursed above every living thing upon the earth. The curse of God fell upon this evil fallen angel and will abide all the days of his existence until his final destruction, as described in the Book of Revelation.  Although Satan gained the authority and power over the world from Adam, every action in his evil kingdom has the curse of God hanging over it. His power is not unlimited; his kingdom will not abide forever, and there is a time limit to his exercise of authority over the earth.

The first part of his curse is that “upon thy belly thou shalt go.”  Bullinger, in The Companion Bible, states this is a figure of speech referring to the devil and “implies utmost humiliation.” He elaborates:

This figure means infinitely more than the

literal belly of flesh and blood just as the words

“heel” and “head” do in verse 15. It paints for

the eyes of our mind the picture of Satan’s ultimate

humilation; for prostration was ever the most

eloquent sign of subjection. When it says “our

belly shall cleaveth unto the ground” (Psalm 44:25),

it denotes such a prolonged prostration and such a

depth of submission as could never be conveyed or

expressed in literal words.

Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon on the The Serpent’s Sentence, says:


which fell upon the serpent-”upon your belly

shall you go.” So does the serpent move and so

does evil labor to make progress. Satan moves

always as a fallen one-not with the dignity of

holiness, but groveling low. God has put upon

his every movement the indication that he is

no longer great and wise…The greatest potentate

of evil is doomed to cringe and crawl…All the

objects of the power of evil are groveling.

There is no dignity in Satan’s kingdom. There is no uprightness in Satan’s schemes. He sneaks, grovels, cringes, and crawls, but suffers humiliation on a daily basis. He has to masquerade as an angel of light; he has to deceive, and he has to counterfeit the things of God, for he cannot stand in truth. Even though he is full of pride and arrogance, he must prostrate and be subject to the power of the Word of God. His authority and strength must bow to and coil back from the living Word of God and those who believe it. He cannot extinguish or snuff out the light of God. He cannot conquer those who trust God and believe His Word. Any victory of Satan is short lived when seen in the light of his daily failures and humiliation in his fight against God Almighty. But nothing compares to his ultimate humiliation and destruction right before the eyes of the entire world.  Ezekiel and Isaiah prophesied of this final devastating humiliation of the curse in Genesis 3:14, “upon they belly thou shalt go”:

Ezekiel 28:17-19 (English Standard Version):

Your heart was proud because of your

beauty; you corrupted your wisdom

for the sake of your splendor. I cast you

to the ground. I exposed you before kings,

to feast their eyes on you.

By the multitude of your iniquities, in the

unrighteousness of your trade you profaned

your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from

your midst; it consumed you, and I turned

you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all

who saw you.

All who know you among the peoples are

appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful

end and shall be no more forever.

Isaiah 14:15-20 (Christian Holman Standard):

But you will be brought down to Sheol

into the deepest regions of the Pit.

Those who see you will stare at you; they

will look closely at you; “Is this the man

who caused the earth to tremble, who shook

kingdoms, who turned the world into a wilderness, who

trampled its cities and would not release the

prisoners to return home?”

All of the kings of the nations lie in splendor,

each in his own tomb.

But you are thrown out without a grave, like

a worthless branch, covered by those slain

with the sword and dumped into a rocky pit

like a trampled corpse.

You will not join them in burial, because you

destroyed your land and slaughtered your own

people. The offspring of evil doers will never be


The god of this world, the devil, who ruined Adam and Eve in the garden, who  contaminated God’s creation with sin, who turned the world into a wasteland of evil and trampled its cities, who made people prisoners in the bondage of his snare, who uses and destroys his followers, and who spreads fear throughout every age, will one day become like a worthless branch and a trampled corpse, as he is destroyed and reduced to ashes. This is the future of the serpent. He will enchant no more, fascinate no more, deceive no more, destroy no more, and oppose the goodness of God no more. This is the ultimate humiliation awaiting the great enemy of God and His people. This is the future of evil.

The second part of the God’s curse on the devil is: “dust shalt thou eat all the days of your life.” E.W. Bullinger, in The Companion Bible, states:

“Dust shalt thou eat”. This is not true to the letter,

or to fact but it is all the more true to truth. It

tells of constant continuous disappointment,

failure and  mortification: as when deceitful ways

are spoken feeding on deceitful food, which is

“sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth shall be

filled with gravel” (Prov. 20:17). This does not

mean literal “gravel” but something far more

disagreeable. It means disappointment so great

that it would gladly be exchanged for the literal


Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon on The Serpent’s Sentence, says:


the serpent- “And dust shalt thou eat all the days

of your life.” Satan is now to live a defeated life,

for such is the force of expression. It signifies that

they are utterly defeated. So Satan, all his life,

exists as a conquered and chained enemy-his power

is broken and he knows it. He is defeated as to the

whole of his great scheme and he is to be defeated

in the details of it all the days of his life…Forever,

dust shall be the serpent’s meat, for what he gains

always disappoints him. He thought he had obtained

great advantage when he won the woman to –

disobedience-but he made a rod for his own back

since her Seed has become his Eternal Antagonist…

If Satan ever knows pleasure at all, it is of the foulest

and most unsatisfactory kind-dust is his meat. There

is nothing satisfying in the pleasures of rebellion. He

remains a disappointed, restless being. His whole cause,

for which he has labored these thousands of years with

horrible perseverance-his whole cause, I say-will

dissolve into dust and will be blown away as smoke!…

Everything that sin can bring you is just so much dust…

This is the misery of that great spirit who is called the

Prince of Darkness, that he must eat dust all his days.

Satan and his kingdom suffer bitter disappointment, frustration, and disillusionment on a daily basis. There is no joy or contentment in Satan’s kingdom. At every turn, at every corner, and at every path, the devil is constantly frustrated by God and His goodness. Evil always brings disappointment, as only the goodness of God can truly satisfy the heart and soul of a person. The best the devil has to offer is dust in your mouth, dust in your purposes, dust in your accomplishments, and dust in your life without God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan is constantly disturbed and aggravated because he cannot usurp God’s throne, cannot defeat God, cannot outsmart God, cannot overcome God, cannot overpower God, and cannot get away from the curse of God that permeates everything he does. The Evil One has a cloud of defeat and doom that hangs over all of his schemes and deceptions.

The next verse contains the greatest promise of the goodness of God in the Bible. When it seemed that all was lost and the devil had succeeded in ruining Adam and Eve, God promised a coming Savior, who will redeem mankind from the penalty of sin and  ultimately crush the devil into oblivion. This was a promise of hope, goodness, and salvation, as God would not leave the world helpless, but would give them His only begotten Son. What a God of love and goodness to promise this to His children who had just committed high treason against Him. God threw the glorious light of His Word right back at the serpent, as the coming redeemer would not only restore everything Adam and Eve lost in the garden, but utterly destroy the devil and all his works. This was the final death blow of the curse of God on the devil that was boldly pronounced in the garden. God heralded forth this good promise so every fallen angel, including the devil himself, would hear about His magnificent goodness and shudder about their ultimate defeat.

Genesis 3:15 (Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible):

And enmity shall I put between thee and the woman, and

between thy seed and her seed,- He shall crush thy head,

but thou shall crush his heel.

This is a declaration of war! This verse sets forth the fulcrum point of all history and defines the ceaseless battle that has raged since Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden. This verse is the central theme of all scriptures, as the red thread of the coming Redeemer is interwoven into every book of the Old Testament. Its message is even written in the heavens, as each night the stars proclaim the sufferings and glorious triumph of Christ.

Who is the seed of the woman? In conception the seed comes from the male, but God’s Word clearly refers to the woman’s seed here. Seed implies birth, and this verse indicates a virgin birth of a man who would crush the arch-enemy of God. This man is the Savior, the Redeemer, the Liberator, the Messiah, the Second Adam, and the Conqueror over sin and death. This man is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Adam as a fallen man could not conquer death or sin, but was a slave to them. Adam or Eve could not of their own power crush and destroy the devil. Adam and Eve could not redeem themselves and pay the penalty of sin that hangs over the human race. They were in desperate need of the seed of the woman, the Redeemer, to free them from the curse of their disobedience. There was great hope in this promise of goodness.

God proclaims that the destiny of this seed of the women is to destroy the devil and all his works. God promises the destiny of the serpent is utter destruction at the hands of this man. The Second Adam will “crush the head of the serpent.” The word “crush” in the Hebrew means: to break or smite in pieces and to greatly injure or wound. E. W.

Bullinger, in The Companion Bible, states:

When it is said (v.15), “He shall crush thy head,”

it means something more than a skull of bone, and

brain and hair. It means all Satan’s plans and plots,

policy and purposes, will one day be finally crushed

and ended, never more to mar or to hinder the

purposes of God.

Charles Spurgeon continues in his sermon on The Serpent’s Sentence:

We now observe his FINAL DOOM…Here is the

end of the great conflict. Satan who heads the

powers of evil in the world, is to fight it out with

all his cunning and strength… but in the end the

Seed of the woman is to bruise his head…Hallelujah,

Hallelujah, He has cast the Prince of Darkness from

his high places…What can he do with a  broken

head? This bruise upon the head  of the Evil One is

a mortal stroke. If  he had been bruised upon the tail

or upon the neck he might have survived. But the

Lord shall utterly slay the kingdom of evil and crush

its power.

In this great battle, the serpent will inflict some temporary damage as he will “crush the heel” of the seed of the woman. E.W. Bullinger, in The Companion Bible, explains:

It cannot mean his literal heel of flesh and blood,

but suffering, more temporary in nature…The

bruising of Christ’s heel is the most eloquent and

impressive way of foretelling the most solemn

events; and to point out that the effort made by

Satan to evade his doom, then threatened, would

become the very means of insuring its

accomplishment; for it was through the death of

Christ that he who had the power of death would

be destroyed; and all Satan’s power and policy

brought to an end, and all his works destroyed…

What  literal words could portray these literal

facts so wonderfully as these expressive figures

of speech.

Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon The Serpent’s Sentence, expounds on this truth:


of the old serpent. What will be accomplished by all

his schemes? “You shall bruise his heel.” That is

all…That bruised heel is painful enough…He was

betrayed, bound, accused, buffeted, scourged, spit

upon. He was nailed to the Cross. He hung there

in thirst and fever and darkness and desertion.

They pierced His hands and feet…Satan by death

death bruised the heel of the woman’s seed…but

when our Lord thought of the Resurrection, the

salvation of His chosen and the conquest of the

world, it seemed to him to be a light thing-”He

endured the Cross, despising the shame.”…Make

the best of it Satan, it does not come to much. All

that you are at your greatest is but a heel-nibbler

and nothing more.

This is the essence of the battle of good and evil throughout all history. The seed of the woman represents all of God’s goodness, and the serpent and his seed represent everything that is evil. The most intense war the world has ever known is about to begin. It is more fierce, more violent, more brutal, more ferocious, and more severe than all of the wars of human history combined. At the very root of this warfare is deep-seated enmity between good and evil, between God and His people and the serpent and his people, and between the Word of God and the word of Satan. This is a spiritual battle, an invisible war for the heart and soul of all peoples on Earth.

God states that there will be great enmity between the serpent and the second Adam, Christ. The word “enmity” in the Hebrew means: hatred and hostility with a desire to injure. There is no truce in this battle. There is no peace agreement. As long as Satan’s kingdom operates upon the earth, it will be opposed vigorously by Christ. Jesus Christ is the absolute pinnacle of God’s goodness, and he represents everything that is good in the heart and purposes of God.  Christ represents God’s goodness, mercy, grace, love, righteousness, justice, holiness, faithfulness, truth, life, and peace. Satan has great hostility to the goodness of God  and everything that Christ represents, as he tries to suppress the knowledge and understanding of God’s goodness in the hearts and minds of people. Satan wants to keep people in the dark about how good God is and the great salvation and deliverance available through Jesus Christ. He fervently desires to injure, hurt, destroy, harm, wound, impair, mar, impede, obstruct, hinder, frustrate, and discourage God’s people, God’s Word and  God’s purposes. He does everything he can to turn people away from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Satan has  raging hostility toward the second Adam, for he knows that his head will be crushed by him. This is a fatal blow from which there is no recovery. Once a serpent’s head is crushed, he cannot inject his poison into the world anymore or operate his schemes and deceptions on all mankind. The devil knew that there was a genealogical Christ line that would pass through Eve, as the seed of the woman would  have to be born. Later, the Word of God was more specific that this Christ line would pass through

Abraham and King David. The entire Old Testament is a record of the fierce attempts of the devil to wipe out the Christ line, and prevent Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman, from ever being born. It is a record of God’s magnificent works and actions that repeatedly delivered the Christ line from extinction. Sometimes the survival of the Christ line rested on the faith of one individual like Noah, Joseph, Abraham, and Esther. Read the Old Testament with this truth in mind, and the Word of God will come alive in new and wonderful ways.

There is not enough space in this book to go into detail of the countless schemes and plots of the devil to destroy this Christ line, and God’s miraculous protection of it. The salvation and redemption of the human race depended on the preservation of the Christ line.  The devil started with the murder of Abel and was absolutely relentless to try to destroy the Seed of the woman who would utterly crush and defeat him. He was not going to go out without a vicious and violent battle where he marshaled all his evil forces to bring about the destruction of the Christ line. The devil even tried to genetically corrupt the entire human race with nephilim, or giants of wickedness, (see Genesis 6) so that the Christ line could never come. This was a serious all out attack on the human race to prevent the coming of the Redeemer.  The devil also tried floods, famines, warfare, idolatry, politics, religion, people, philosophies, and countless schemes throughout the Old Testament to destroy the true knowledge of God, and obliterate the genealogical line from which Christ would be born. But Satan was foiled again and again. He even tried to devour the infant Jesus through Herod’s decree of death, but God was always one step ahead of the devil in the preservation of His promise of the Seed of the woman.

The book of Romans sets forth the importance of this one man, the second Adam, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race for all who believe.

Romans 5:15,17,18 (Amplified Bible):

But God’s free gift is not all to be compared

to the trespass [His grace is out of all

proportion to the fall of man]. For if many

died through one man’s falling away (his

lapse, his offense), much more profusely

did God’s grace and the free gift that comes

through the undeserved favor of the one

Man Jesus Christ abound and overflow to

and for the benefit of many.

For if because of one man’s trespass (lapse,

offense) death reigned through that one,

much more surely will those who receive

God’s overflowing grace (unmerited favor)

and the free gift of righteousness [putting

them into right standing with Himself] reign

as kings in life through the one Man Jesus

Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One.)

Well then, as one man’s trespass [one man’s

false step and falling away led] to condemnation

for all men, so one Man’s act of righteousness

leads to acquittal and right standing with God

and life for all men.

God revealed His ultimate plan of grace with the Seed of the woman, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, who by His death and resurrection made available the free gift of righteousness leading to acquittal from the penalty of sin and right standing again with God.  The court of God legally pronounces the declaration of acquittal when a man or woman confesses Jesus Christ as their Lord and believes God raised Jesus from the dead. Sin and death reign in this world because of Adam’s one act of disobedience, but now through the obedience of one man, Jesus Christ, and his sacrifice, we can reign as kings in this life and the one to come.

Ray Pritchard in his Commentary on Romans explains:

Death reigned. That’s our heritage from Adam.

Death reigns on the earth because of Adam’s

sin…Ah, but that’s only part of the story. There

is a way out. There is a way to reverse what

Adam did…It comes, Paul says to those who

receive God’s abundant provision of grace and

the gift of righteousness…But notice the result

of receiving the gift of righteousness. Those

who receive this free gift now reign in life.

On one hand, death reigns; on the other hand,

those who know Jesus Christ as Savior reign

as kings right now, in this life and in the life

to come. We live in dying world, but in this

realm of death, we may through Jesus Christ

reign as kings. And in the life to come, we

shall reign forever, rising from the dead,

clothed with immortality. Only God could

take a slave and transform him into a king.

But that is what God has done through Jesus

Christ. So what Jesus did is far greater than

what Adam did. Greater in its nature. Greater

in its power. Greater in its effect.

The goodness of God has its ultimate triumph in the Lord Jesus Christ. Evil has its sentence of doom and ultimate destruction in the Lord Jesus Christ. What Jesus Christ accomplished at Calvary is so magnificent, so awesome and so astounding, that it permanently crippled Satan’s kingdom and one day will obliterate every remnant of it from off the face of the earth. The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the most important event in all of human history, because he broke the curse of sin and death that hangs over the world like a dark cloud. He regained everything that Adam and Eve had lost on that tragic day in the Garden of Eden and so much more. He paid the price for the complete redemption and salvation of the soul of every person who comes to Him. Through Jesus Christ, righteousness is restored to a person so that they can stand in the presence of God without any sense of fear, shortcoming, guilt, or unworthiness. The ability to have deep fellowship and communion with the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ has been recovered and given as a gift to all those who confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

The Court of God has wiped our slate clean; we are as white as snow, as our redeemer has paid the ransom and penalty for our sin.  We no longer have to live in bondage to sin, fear, worry, sickness, disease, poverty, misery, hatred, selfishness, and ignorance, for we reign as kings in life through the Lord Jesus Christ. We can walk in great power, wreaking havoc in Satan’s kingdom on the earth as we touch people with the great healing love and wholeness available in Jesus Christ.  You are a super-conqueror; you are a new creation; you are a glorious son or daughter of God with all the dignity that comes with God’s calling through Jesus Christ.

Colossians further elaborates on this head crushing of the serpent by the Seed of the woman, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 2:14,15 (Message):

When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life,

you were incapable of responding to God. God

brought you alive-right along with Christ! Think

of it! All sins forgive, the slate wiped clean, that

old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s

cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants of the

universe of their sham authority at the Cross and

marched them naked through the streets.

Verse 15 (Phillips):

And having drawn the sting of all powers ranged

against us, he exposed them, shattered, empty

and defeated, in his final glorious triumphant act.


Taking on him our human nature, he stripped off

and cast aside all the powers of evil which clung

to it like a poisonous garment. As a mighty conqueror

he displayed these his fallen enemies to an astonished

world, leading them in triumph on his cross.


And the hostile princes and rulers He shook off from

Himself, and boldly displayed them as His conquests,

when by the cross he triumphed over them.

Moffatt Translation:

When he cut away the angelic Rulers and Powers

from us, exposing them to all the world and triumphing

over them in the cross.

At Calvary, Jesus Christ stripped and disarmed the power and authority of the devil’s kingdom for every born again believer. No devil spirit in the devil’s kingdom, no matter what its rank, can defeat you when you stand in the strength of the Lord’s redemptive work for you at the cross. The picture Paul is painting is of a triumphant general who has routed the enemy and leads the captive foes and spoils of his victory behind his chariot in a grand public procession through the city.

In the Roman world, this was the highest honor that could be bestowed upon a victorious Roman general. It was called “the triumph.” There must have been at least 5,000 enemy soldiers killed, and there must have been a gain of Roman territory in the conquest. It was an awesome display of the power, strength, and might of the Roman Empire. It was a spectacle that few would forget its images, as the triumph declared to the world that the enemy had been overwhelmed and crushed, now to be publicly humiliated through the streets of the city.

How much greater is the triumph of Christ as the captain of our salvation?  What a triumph on the cross! What a victory against the forces of darkness! What a crushing blow to Satan’s kingdom! What a public display of victory to all those who have eyes to see and ears to hear! You become identified and in vital union with this triumph on the cross and all its far-reaching glorious effects when you become a new creation in Christ at the new birth. You are marching right beside Jesus Christ in this magnificent victory march with every wretched captive in chains under your feet. With great freedom, the power of the old sin nature has been stripped off and crippled, and the power of Christ in you flows and energizes every cell of your human body. You are a super conqueror who always triumphs in Christ. Jesus Christ cut away Satan’s firm grip on us and smashed the kingdom of darkness’s authority, control, and rule over our lives. No longer must we be a slave to sin or the bondage of this world. Jesus Christ victoriously led captivity captive for every Christian, according to the book of Ephesians, as he crushed and defeated every form of mental, physical, or spiritual bondage. What a triumph on the cross! What a victory in Christ!

He rescued us from the power of darkness and gave us full legal rights as a son or daughter of God. The word “power” in Colossians means: the exercised power to do something; liberty of action to do as one pleases; the delegated authority and power to act, and the right to exercise power. The devil and his kingdom no longer have the liberty or power to do what they please in your life when you stand upon the triumph of the cross. The devil  no longer has the right to act freely with authority and power over you. We have been set free. He must flee when we stand against him. God has given us the full armor of God to stand firm against the onslaughts of the Evil One.

Hebrew 2:14,15 (Wuest):

Therefore since the children share in common

with one another blood and flesh, He himself

also partook with them in the same, in order

that through the aforementioned death He might

render inoperative the one having the dominion

of death, that is the devil, and effect the release

of those, as many as who by reason of fear of

death through the entire course of their lives

were held in bondage.

Verse 14(b)(Moffatt):

So that by dying he might crush him who

wields the power of death (that is to say, the devil)

English Standard Version:

That through death he might destroy the one who

has the power of death, that is the devil.

Since the fall of Adam in the garden, the devil has wielded the power of death. Part of his dominion over the human race was in the form of death. Death has been an incredible weapon of destruction for Satan on the human race. Death is an enemy to every human being on the earth, and with its companion sin, the devil has held the human race in his firm grasp. The human race needed a Savior to be released from the bondage of sin and death. God in His goodness sent the Seed of the woman, His only begotten Son, to destroy death and its ruler, the devil.

The words “render inoperative” in verse 14 in the Greek mean: to render powerless; to make the force or power of something ineffective, crushing its power, and to nullify or void. It denotes a nonphysical destruction by a superior force coming in to replace the force previously in effect. The word “dominion” in the Greek means: strength, might, force, manifested power, and power in the sense of dominion. This brutal and horrible dominion of death, utilized so effectively by the devil, was broken at Calvary. The strength and might of death that the devil has used relentlessly as a weapon in every age of history was declared null and void. The major kingpin of his dominion and authority over the earth has been trampled under the feet of the Lord Jesus. God also promises in I Corinthians 15, and in the book of Revelation, that there is a day coming when this last enemy, death, will be completely destroyed off the face of the earth, and its sorrow, bondage, and destruction will be no more. There will absolutely be no death in the new heavens and earth promised in Revelation 21 and I Peter 3. This was all made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who crushed the serpent’s head.

I Timothy 1:10 (Amplified):

It is that purpose and grace which He has

now made known and has fully disclosed

and made real to us through the appearing

of our Savior Christ Jesus, Who annulled

death and made it of no effect and brought

life and immortality (immunity from eternal

death) to light through the Gospel.

New Living Translation:

And now he has made all of this plain to us

by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior.

He broke the power of death and illuminated

the way to life and immortality through the

Good News.

The born again believer who has put his faith in Christ as his Savior cannot be defeated by spiritual or physical death.  We have been reconciled to God in the new birth and made alive spiritually in Christ. We have been given the sure promise of everlasting life and spiritual death has been obliterated by Jesus Christ. Even if we die physically,the Lord has promised that at the Rapture, he will raise us from the dead and give us a new glorious immortal body that is not subject to the jaws of death. The devil’s main tool in the battle between good and evil, the power of death, has been absolutely mortally wounded and crushed at the cross.

This dominion of death is completely inoperable, ineffective, and powerless against the Christian believer.  We have been completely set free from the bondage of death. This does not mean that if the Lord tarries, that a Christian believer will not die, but that a Christian believer cannot be held captive or conquered by death. Physical death cannot hold your body in the grave, for there is a day coming when the Lord of glory is coming back; he will break the power of the grave and raise the physical body as incorruptible. Then we will be forever with the Lord throughout all eternity. Death will never again raise its ugly head, as it is forever destroyed at the end of the great White Throne Judgment described in Revelation 20. In the new heavens and earth of Revelation 21, there will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain. All of these things are gone forever. What a gospel! How good is the truth about the Seed of the woman, Jesus Christ! Death, the hated enemy, the feared enemy, the loathsome enemy, the painful enemy, the sorrowful enemy, and the wicked enemy has been broken and defeated by the Lord Jesus Christ. He swallowed up death in victory.

Romans 5:21 (Phillips):

The whole outlook changes-sin use to be the

master of men and in the end handed them

over to death: now grace is the ruling factor,

with righteousness as its purpose and

at its end the bringing of men to the eternal

life of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I Corinthians 15:20-28; 51-57 (Message):

But the truth is Christ has been raised up,

the first in a long legacy of those who are

going to leave the cemeteries.

There is a nice symmetry to this: Death

initially came by a man, and resurrection

from death came by a man.

Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes

alive in Christ.

But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first,

then those with him at his Coming, the grand

consummation when, after crushing the

opposition, he hands over his kingdom to

God the Father.

He won’t let up until the last enemy is down-

and the very last enemy is death.

As the psalmist said “He laid them low,

one and all; he walked all over them.”

When Scripture says that “he walked all

over them,” its obvious that he couldn’t at

the same time be walked on.

When everything and everyone is finally

under God’s rule, the Son will step down,

taking his place with everyone else, showing

that God’s rule is absolutely comprehensive-

a perfect ending.

But let me tell you something wonderful…

On signal from that trumpet from heaven,

the dead will be up and out of the graves,

beyond the reach of death, never to die again.

At that same moment and in the same way,

we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme

of things, this has to happen: everything perishable

take off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable,

this mortal replaced by the immortal.

Then the saying will come true: Death swallowed by

triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh Death?

Oh Death, whose afraid of you now?

It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code

guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power.

But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three-

Sin, guilt, death are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus

Christ. Thank God!

Death is the personal enemy of every human upon the face of the earth, and there is no deliverance from the power and strength of the grave without the Lord Jesus Christ. Death cannot be conquered by science; death cannot be overcome by a political decree; death cannot be eradicated by a vaccine, and death cannot be defeated by any earthly power. There will never be a fountain of youth or some magical spell or potion to obtain eternal life. Death is the cruelest, most vicious, most sorrowful, most brutal, and most lethal curse on the human race. This curse of death pulsates through every cell of the human body like a corrupt virus, as no one can escape its power through their own strength, philosophy, or wisdom. Death does not bring you into some higher state of consciousness or being, but throws you into the decay and corruption of the grave. It is a life destroyer, happiness destroyer, family destroyer, society destroyer, and it has ripped the human heart to shreds with fear, sorrow, and pain since Adam’s high treason and the entrance of sin into the world. Death does not allow you to float around as a ghost and have free movement while you haunt or help people. Death does not bring you into a reincarnated new life form. This is a most certain truth-death does not bring life in any way, shape, or form. Without the Savior Jesus Christ, death is the end of all humanity.

Death cannot produce, generate, or refine life. Death is the end of life.

Do you see why death is such a curse and lethal enemy according to Scripture? Once you understand the brutal and permanent nature of death, you can really appreciate the total victory that Jesus Christ accomplished with his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. Jesus Christ is the master over death and the conqueror of the grave. Immortality only comes with the good news of Jesus Christ.

Death was not the only work of the devil that Jesus Christ destroyed. The purpose of the Son of God as the Seed of the Woman, and the second Adam was to crush the works, policies, purposes, schemes, plots, and designs of the devil.

I John 3:8 (b) (New King James):

For this purpose was the Son of God manifested,

that He might destroy the works of the devil.


The reason the Son of God was made manifest

(visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and

dissolve) the works the devil has done.


Now the Son of God came to earth with the express

purpose of undoing the devil’s work.


For this purpose there was manifested the Son of

God, in order that He might bring to naught the

works of the devil.

This is why the devil has such hatred and hostility toward Jesus for he came for the express purpose of destroying, undoing, dissolving, and bringing to naught the works of the devil. God sent His Son to a dying world for the glorious mission of obliterating the curse of sin, death, and bondage that corrupted the human race in the Garden of Eden.  He was sent to restore God’s magnificent purpose and destiny for men, women, and children. God wanted to bring children into His family again who would be fully righteous, justified, sanctified, and redeemed and have complete, vital, and intimate communion and fellowship with Him. God wanted mankind to once again enjoy all the full blessings of the goodness of God.  Jesus Christ was the ambassador of the goodness of God and paid the price for whomever wills to come and enjoy all the benefits of His goodness.

The word “destroy” is the Greek word luo, which means: to loose something tied or bound, to break up that which is compacted together, to dissolve, to sever, to break in pieces, to set free, to melt and to demolish. The word means “a destruction by undoing or dissolving that which forms the bond of cohesion.” Jesus Christ came to loosen people from the works of the devil and set them free. We all had a bond of cohesion to Satan’s kingdom through sin and death, but Jesus Christ dissolved the bond, and we broke free.  The word luo is used in the gospels when John the Baptist said that he was not worthy to unloose (luo) the thong or strap of Jesus’ sandals. This gives a great mind picture of Jesus unloosening the works of the devil in people’s lives, like un-strapping a sandal, so that the works can be thrown off of the body, heart, and soul of a person and one can enjoy true freedom.

The Greek word luo is used again in Acts 27:41 when the ship taking the Apostle Paul to Rome was “broken (luo) on the violence of the waves.” This was a huge boat with enough room for 276 people, yet the fierce strength of the waves shattered the hinder part of the boat into pieces. Many of the soldiers were saved by grabbing onto a broken piece of the ship and floating to shore. This should paint a vivid picture for you. Jesus Christ shattered the devil’s works into a million pieces by the awesome power of God. Like a ship helplessly run into the ground and continuously beat with the relentless pounding of the waves, Jesus Christ continually pounded the schemes, deceptions, and purposes of the devil with the great force of the Word of God. He was relentless in his destruction of the devil’s works, as the boat of Satan’s kingdom could not escape the light and truth of His purpose upon the earth. Jesus Christ shook and shattered the devil’s kingdom into broken pieces.

The Greek word luo is also used in II Peter 3:10,12 when the present heaven, earth and elements melt (luo) with fervent heat and dissolve (luo) by fire at the time of the last judgments described in the Book of Revelation. What a mind picture!  For something to melt, you have to apply intense heat to it. It requires energy to melt anything. When increasing temperature is applied to an element and it melts, the energy being applied to it is greater than the energy holding it together. The heat overcomes the internal forces of attraction within the solid to transform it into a liquid. Thus it begins to change form and melt.

Jesus Christ put intense heat on the purposes, works, and schemes of the devil and melted and dissolved them. Jesus Christ operated spiritual power, and when this spiritual energy of God was applied to the works of the devil, it was greater than any force holding his works together. The power of God disintegrates any plot, scheme, or purpose of Satan and no matter how attractively it is held together by evil, it cannot overcome the energy and dynamic power that rest in God.  Jesus Christ put the intense heat of the truth of the Word of God right upon the kingdom of darkness, and it shined as a brilliant light, exposing the wicked works of the Evil One. This white hot heat of God’s Word melted the hardened and callous hearts of many and melted the devil’s evil foothold of bondage that robs people of joy, peace, love, and wholeness.

Interestingly, this same Greek word, luo, is also used in John 10:35, when it declares, “the scripture cannot be broken (luo).” The devil can never break, dissolve, melt, or demolish the Word of God. I Peter 1:23 says that “the word of God lives and abides forever.” The Word of God is life. The Word of God is good, pure, powerful, and faithful. It cannot be dissolved away into nothing. No matter how much heat or pressure the devil applies to the Word, it does not melt under the burning heat. Satan does not have enough energy or power to break the Word of God. Jesus Christ is the living Word. The devil does not have enough energy or power to break or shatter the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Word of God is so powerful and so energetic that it dissolves and melts every evil work of Satan. Jesus Christ believed, obeyed, trusted, spoke, lived, studied, and knew the Word of God intimately and deeply. Jesus Christ’s main weapon in the destruction of the devil’s works is the Word of God. The Word was his sword of the Spirit. The devil cannot overcome the “It is written” mentality that Jesus Christ demonstrated during his temptations in the wilderness and throughout his ministry. Jesus Christ’s confrontation with the seed of the serpent was clearly defined in their first head to head battle in the wilderness, as Jesus Christ used the Word of God to back the devil down and defeat his temptations.

One of the devil’s main tools in his battle with the Seed of the woman is ignorance. Satan wants to keep people in the dark about the great truths of the Bible. Satan wants to keep people in the dark about the goodness and wonderful character of God. Satan wants to keep people in the dark about the devil’s wicked kingdom on earth and his exercise of authority as the god of this age. Satan wants to keep people in the dark about the great victory of redemption, wholeness, healing, peace, and everlasting life available in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The devil loves to counterfeit the truth and goodness of God. The devil loves to deceive, to camouflage, to mislead, to masquerade, to impersonate, to lie, and to distract people away from the truth of God’s Word and the goodness of God. The devil counterfeits God’s Word with false religion, creeds, and philosophies to divert a person’s attention away from a true knowledge of God. He masquerades evil as good and good as evil. He paints a picture of the true God as a cruel, vicious, uncaring, and evil God, responsible for all the calamity of the world. He makes people turn their back on God in disgust.  He makes God seem distant, heartless, cold, and indifferent. He makes people think the devil is an illusion of religious thought, a fictitious bogeyman, a myth for religious control,  and simply non-existent.

Jesus Christ declared in the Gospel of John that “there is no truth in him (devil)” and he is “the father of lies.”  Jesus Christ calls him “a murderer” and “a thief,” as all his works are set up to steal, kill, and destroy a person from receiving the life and goodness of God and the truth of His mighty Word. Jesus Christ exposed the snare of the devil and made known all his wicked works. Jesus Christ also made known God and His goodness in such a dynamic way, opening the eyes of those who had ears to hear and eyes to see. Jesus Christ came so that all His followers could know the truth of the Word of God and that this truth would set them free.

Acts 10:38 (English Standard Version):

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth

with the Holy Spirit and power. He went

about doing good and healing all that

were oppressed of the devil, for God

was with him.

Every action, every word and every work of Jesus Christ upon the earth was good. Jesus Christ destroyed, broke, melted, and unloosed the works of the devil by the goodness of God. Jesus Christ loved, had compassion, touched, healed, and enlightened; he taught, understood, cared, and reached out like no human being ever had on the face of the earth. Jesus Christ’s character, his habitual action, his personality, and manner of life was to do good. He was the Christ, the Anointed One, who lived, moved, and acted in all the authority and power of the Spirit of God. He made God’s goodness known by his words and actions. He revealed the truth of God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and love to a degree that had not been known since the Garden of Eden. He also shined a spotlight on the devil and his kingdom, exposing its methods, operation, and existence, which had never been previously known in the history of the world. God was with Jesus Christ every step of the way as he showed the people just how good God was, is, and always will be.

During his earthly ministry, Jesus did good by healing all those who were oppressed of the devil. The word “oppressed” in the Greek means: to exercise harsh control over someone, to exploit, to exercise control or power over someone, to be overpowered, to oppress harshly, to tyrannize, and to dominate someone.  The word “heal” in the Greek means “to cure, to make whole, to cause to live and to revive or recover from illness. It refers to both physical and spiritual healing. Jesus Christ melted and destroyed the works of the devil by healing, reviving, and making whole all those who had been dominated, overpowered, oppressed harshly, and exploited by the devil. This was all part of his crushing of the head of the serpent. Jesus Christ is the great healer and restorer.  No matter how harshly a person is oppressed by the devil, no matter how much a person is tyrannized by the devil, and no matter how much a person is dominated by the devil, none of the devil’s works can overpower the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ brought the goodness of God into manifestation by healing all those oppressed by the devil.

The goodness of God heals, restores, revitalizes, recovers, makes whole, cures, sets free, delivers, and revives. Jesus Christ did the ultimate act of goodness by giving his life for you and me on the cross. When Jesus Christ was hanging on the cross, he was doing good. When Jesus Christ was being savagely beaten, whipped, and crushed, he was doing good, because he was bruised for our iniquities, wounded for our transgressions, and by his stripes we were healed.  In our redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, lies the ultimate deliverance and healing from every single oppression, exploitation, domination, depression, tyranny, and work of the devil.

The fatal wound to the head of the serpent was delivered at Calvary and the empty tomb. The death sentence to both the devil and all his works was shouted out to the human race with three words at Calvary and three words at the empty tomb. Jesus Christ cried out, “It is finished” at Calvary, and the angel proclaimed, “He is risen” at the empty tomb.  What a Savior who brought us back to the goodness of God!

Luke 4:18  (Weymouth):

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because

He has anointed me to proclaim Good News

to the poor; He sent me to announce release

to the prisoners of war and recovery of sight

to the blind; to send away free those whose

tyranny has crushed.

We no longer have to be prisoners of war in the spiritual battle that rages with the devil. Jesus Christ opened the prison door of every tyranny of mind, body, heart, and soul and set us free. He crushed every tyrannical work of the devil that had previously broke our heart and spirit. He delivers all those who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity.

The main goal of all of the devil’s works is to separate and keep us from the heart of God. The devil set up many roadblocks and obstructions, beginning with sin and its consequences, that corrupted people’s relationship with God. Jesus Christ unloosed all the obstructions and cleared the pathway to the heart of God. He melted the devil’s work of separation and deception, and widely opened the door of access to our loving Father. Jesus Christ made it available that we might know Him and have full communion and intimacy with Him to such a degree that it overwhelms the heart. The human race feels restless, empty, unfulfilled, useless, valueless, and incomplete without a deep, vibrant, and living relationship with their Creator God Almighty. To know his love, to know his goodness, to know his justice, to know his righteousness, to know his mercy, to know his truth, and to know his faithfulness is the ultimate rush and thrill in life. How exciting to have God as your closest friend, your trusted advisor, your loving parent, and your strong protector. The devil does everything in his power to prevent this. He steals, kills and  destroys to keep people from getting to know God on an intimate basis and understand the greatness of his good character. He spiritually blinds people to the heart of God and goodness of God.

John 1:17,18 (Amplified):

For while the Law was given through Moses,

grace (unearned, undeserved  favor and

spiritual blessing) and truth came through

Jesus Christ.

No man has ever seen God at any time,

the only unique Son, or the  only begotten

of God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate

presence  of] the Father, He has declared

Him [He has revealed Him and brought

Him out where He can been seen; He has

interpreted Him and He has made Him


The word “declared” in the Greek means:  to make known, to unfold, to lead the way, and to make known by expounding.” Jesus Christ unfolded the heart of God to mankind that had never been known before in all of history. He revealed and made known the heart of God as a Father and showed the world His goodness in a way that had not been previously known. Jesus Christ led the way to knowing the God of all goodness, all light, all love, all truth, and all grace in such a deep and wonderful way that his words astonished all of Israel and eventually all of the world. Jesus Christ brought the truth about God’s goodness and His character to a sick, dying, and lost world. He opened the eyes spiritually of all those who believe to the true heart of God as good. He exposed the devil and his kingdom as the true origin of evil and all its consequences in the world.

How exciting is the adventure of life with God when you really know Him and His character? How thrilling and awesome is living when you begin to understand the depth of His goodness? Jesus Christ made it available that we might be alive to God, in God and for God. Jesus Christ made it available that we can live our lives in a vibrant, living union with God on the most intimate level that you can ever imagine. We, as a Christian church, must wake up to our calling to know His character, His goodness, and  His Word, and to reach out to the world with the great message of His goodness and love. His goodness is unfathomable; it is endless; it is eternal, and it is indestructible. Jesus Christ melted the path to this heart of God.

There is no place on Earth like being in the heart of God.  It is in the heart of God that you will find your freedom, your purpose, your healing, your deliverance, and your destiny. God wants to wrap His arms around you and hold you tightly in His bosom. He wants you to have a freedom encounter in His presence, where all the cares, burdens, pressures, and hassles of this life will melt away from your heart, as fear is replaced with faith, sadness with joy, depression with hope, and weakness with strength. The works of the devil in any shape, in any form, and in any manner cannot hold you any longer in their grip. The more you know and understand the heart of God and His goodness, the stronger and more joyful you will become. There is rest, peace, and true freedom when you live in the heart of God. The heart of God is always good. Evil cannot dwell or exist in the heart of God. The heart of God is love. God’s goodness and love are intertwined and forever bound together as indestructible partners. Every action, every word, and every work from the heart of God is good and rooted in His love. Jesus Christ made known as no other that the heart of God is goodness and love always without exception. No one had seen God or known God in the depth and to the degree that Jesus Christ unfolded Him to the human race

In the great victory of the Seed of the woman, once last truth that we must deal with is the new creation. The word “seed” implies that there will be progeny, children, a newly birthed people out of the finished work of Jesus Christ. What absolutely crushed the devil’s purposes and schemes for the human race and completely blindsided him was the new creation that a man or woman becomes in Christ. This truth is an enormous aspect of the goodness Jesus Christ accomplished in His death and resurrection.

II Corinthians 5:17 (NIV):

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is

a new creation; the old is gone; the new

has come.

What a breathtaking truth that in Christ we are a new creation; we have a new divine nature; we are new people created in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we are His seed. The word “creation” in the Greek means: to bring something into existence that has not existed before; the act of founding, establishing, and building through creation, and refers to God’s creative action. The word “new” in the Greek means: that which is new in kind or quality, and is something unprecedented, novel, uncommon, and unheard of.  It relates to something not previously present. This word “new” does not mean that something is simply renovated, but something that it is entirely new in species and character.

By the divine act and will of God, He founded, established, and built a new spiritual nature in all born again believers. This new creation is of perfect quality and character, because it originates from the creative heart of God. It is absolutely unprecedented in the nature of a person because it is a divine seed planted by God. We become partakers of the divine nature, and in Christ we have a dynamically powerful new spiritual nature. This is a spiritual birth and the seed of God within us is permanent, incorruptible, and indestructible. Once you are born of your earthly parents, you are always their child because you have their seed within you. The same holds true for the spiritual new birth in Christ, as this incorruptible seed of God is created within you, and  you forever become God’s new spiritual son or daughter of God.

Bullinger, in his article “A New Creation” expounds on this new creation:

What is it to create? Not to change, not to

renovate, not to reform, not to improve,

not the old nature adorned and beautified,

not the flesh with its corruptions and lust

trimmed and trained; but it is the new and

Divine nature imparted, with all its spiritual

blessings and holy privileges. It is not the

old Adam made clean or religious, clothed

and adorned. No! It is something altogether

NEW. Therefore in Christ Jesus, I am a partaker

of the Divine nature; I am a partaker of His

Resurrection-life, according to the Father’s

promise…A new Divine nature is not a mere

influence, is not a mere passing religious

feeling induced by ravishing music or pathetic

story, but a real existence in living union with

a crucified, risen, exalted, glorified, coming

Lord. What a glorious union!

E.W. Kenyon, in The Bible in the Light of our Redemption, further elaborates on this new creation:

Down through the ages of human history, every step,

every dealing of God with man has been toward one

goal-a New Creation, a spiritual creation of man that

would free man completely from spiritual death and

satanic dominion…What a floodtide of human suffering

and misery has the reign of Satan brought to the human

heart…All human suffering is the result of Satan’s

lordship over humanity. Human suffering may be

caused by the cruelty and selfishness of others, by

our own sins, by sickness, by circumstance, but it may

all be traced to the reign of Satan. Therefore, man’s

difficulty centers in the need for a new Lord. Satan

is a hard taskmaster…The Lordship of Christ means

a New Nature, a New Family, a New Father. Christ

died and rose again that He might meet the need of

man for a new Lord…What a message of joy, what

glad tidings we have to bring to an unsaved world,

the message of this new Lord for man…By a man’s

calling unto this new Lord, the power and authority

of Satan will be broken over his life…Just as every

spiritual want of man centered in the lordship of

Satan over his life, every spiritual blessing centers

in the personal Lordship of Christ over a man’s

life. The man who has taken Jesus as Lord is blessed

with every spiritual blessing…The Lordship of Christ

means freedom from the reign of sin…Christ has

undone the works of Satan in the human heart. This

means that sin has absolutely lost its power over the

New Creation. . .

The sin nature has no power, no authority, and no mastery over the New Creation. Every spiritual blessing we have in Christ is wrapped up and inherent in this New Creation. No work of the devil can defeat or diminish or conquer this New Creation.

Satan had been the master of the human race from the Fall to the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, but in the resurrected and ascended Christ, a new day dawned for the world. The power of the great enemy, the crafty serpent, and deceitful slanderer has been permanently broken, crushed, and defeated in our wonderful Lord Jesus. We are a new people, a called out mighty seed, a glorious new creation clothed in righteousness, and holiness. We have a new Lord, who has ushered us into a new age of spiritual, mental, and physical freedom and the crushing of every yoke of bondage that has held us in its grasp. We have a new destiny, as sin and death are no longer our emperors and rulers to whom we must bow and serve.

David Needham, in Birthright, Christian, Do You Know Who You Are?,  states:

I hope it will be clear that the answer to the problem

of sin and the despair of meaninglessness is found in

discovering the vast scope of the miracle God performed

when he saved you-a miracle that actually changed you…

By physical conception my parents gave me “flesh” birth.

It involved much more than me “getting something.” I

became a real, full-fledged, “flesh” personSimilarly

by the new birth, I became a brand-new kind of person

The divine activity re-makes a man. He is born all over

again by the very Spirit of God…Perhaps this “new

personhood” idea seems far away from the daily activity

of your life. That still doesn’t change the basic fact. If

you have received the Savior, you simply are not the same

person you were before. When you were “in the flesh

(Romans 8:9), life and meaning for you had to be found

right there-and there alone. Your brain, your emotions,

your senses, your creativity, your glands, your world

environment, your relationships-this was life. It could be

found nowhere else. But if you have been born again,

this is not so anymore, whether you know it or not.

You may weigh the same, look the same, feel the same

but you are not the same…God has not only justified

you and reconciled you, he has also birthed you…children

of God….Could this really be? “Children,” not by adoption,

but by birth. Yes, emphatically it is true…Even after it

was known the Savior had risen, seven weeks passed

before anyone grasped the pivotal importance of his death

and resurrection. Finally on the Day of Pentecost, the fire

fell; the Spirit came. From deep within “rivers of living

water” flowed…The risen Christ was dispensing LIFE.

By the new birth, realized in its fullness on the Day of

Pentecost, life was theirs as they never experienced it…

Life was now “resurrection life” The persons they use to

be, persons who only knew life in the flesh, had been

crucified with Christ. They were “risen with Christ,

“alive to God,” as they had never been alive…What does

all this mean? It means that by the new birth, you and I

are now participants in the ultimate new age of God’s

eternal purposes. We are living within the fulfillment of

the prophets’ aching dreams and God’s promised miracle.

We are now actually, the internally transformed citizens

in God’s kingdom of righteousness-where Jesus reigns,

within the kingdom of our hearts…Christ… is now

reproducing himself progressively in the lives of the

saints. .Now the last Adam [Christ]…is reproducing

his very life-his image-in us!…The image concept is

now more glorious than Adam, even in his innocence.

This is the new age. The consummation of all the ages

has begun. We are now by birth, by the Spirit, “the

children of God,” pulsating with the risen life of Jesus.

Some day, perhaps soon, it will reach its apex when

at last our “physical …bodies” will be transformed

into “spiritual bodies”-at the “redemption of our

bodies.”…The new aeon [age] which has dawned

with Christ, brings a new creation, the creation of

a new man…the union with Christ which brings

justification also brings new life…The believer

enters not just into a private relationship with Jesus,

but a new humanity in which he becomes a new

kind of man…Jesus Christ is no less than the

inaugurator of a new humanity. New age, new

humanity, new creation. We are both corporately

and individually-part of something which is the

capstone of everything God has or ever will do.

We are the blessed progeny, the new humanity, the new species, the seed of Christ, and children of the living God. We have the gift of holy spirit born within and the resurrection life of Jesus Christ pulsating and energizing every ounce of our being. We are infused with spiritual power from on high and the very divine nature of God. This is what the human heart has been craving for since the fall of Adam: a new creation, authored by God Almighty, that fundamentally changes who we are, and who we will be in the future. We have passed from death unto life, from sin unto righteousness, from condemnation to justification, from separation to reconciliation, and from enemies to beloved children.

The first Adam’s disobedience produced a race of mortal people destined to die and to be ravaged by sin and its consequences. The Last Adam, Jesus Christ, through his obedience, death, and resurrection is producing a race of people who will live forever and be victorious over the terrible twins of sin and death and all their consequences. The first Adam produced a race of people born dead in sin and enslaved to the rule of Satan as the god of this world. The Last Adam made it available to all those who believe to be born again to life and to break the power of the devil’s kingdom in their lives. The last Adam is in the process of producing an everlasting race of perfect people who will one day live and reign with him forever upon a perfect earth. As sure as the sun rises every morning, the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, is coming back to establish his kingdom upon the earth. Nothing can stop it.

God’s original plan was to have many sons and daughters living in Paradise forever. The first Adam was supposed to be the father of such a perfect race, but he failed and sentenced the human race to sin and death when he disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. God’s dream, God’s intense desire, God’s ultimate plan after the Fall was to restore His original purpose of having birthed children live with Him forever on a perfect, beautiful, and amazing earth. The entire Bible points to Jesus Christ as being the agent, the mediator, the Savior, and the sacrifice that would bring about this restoration. The Last Adam, Jesus Christ, had to face the fierce enemies of sin, death, and the devil and he overwhelmingly conquered them all. He became the Head and Firstborn of all the redeemed born again believers whom he can rightfully call his brothers and sisters. He is not ashamed to do so, because he knows that they are birthed new creations in Him and sons and daughters of His heavenly Father.

We are new creations in Christ, because he set the pattern of who we become when we are born again in both resurrection life and a new glorious body at the Rapture, along with the power and ability to do his works and to walk like him in thought, deed, heart, and action. We have the mind of Christ, the heart of Christ, the ability of Christ, and the power of Christ born within us at the new birth. We can now touch and reach out to the world with the goodness of God. Our good works are rooted and grounded in Christ, and our new birth transformation. We can deeply affect the lives of so many people, because Jesus Christ lives through us. The goodness of God, the love of God, the mercies of God, the compassion of God, the tenderness of God, and the forgiveness of God are energized in us through Jesus Christ, so that we can go into all the world and preach the good news to every person.

Do you see where the battle lines are now drawn? Do you now understand in more detail this battle of good and evil? Can you begin to see now that God is not the originator or source of all the evils in this world? Can you see the goodness of God in providing for this wonderful new creation in Christ and not leaving the human race without hope?

The Devil’s hatred for God still rages and burns white hot, and his goal is to prevent as many people as he can from becoming new creations in Christ and having the guarantee of everlasting life. He wants them to remain under the penalty of sin and death without a Redeemer, Savior, or Liberator. He wants the human race to worship him and all his false idols, and die in sin without ever coming to Christ. He does not want people to know the God of goodness or His amazing Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Last Adam. This battle for the heart and soul of every human on Earth explodes in intensity in every town, city, country, and continent. The devil does not want anyone to be touched by the goodness of the wonderful heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. He wants to turn people’s hearts and minds away from the goodness of God and the heart of God.  Don’t let him do it. Don’t let evil triumph. Christians, we are on the front lines of this battle of good and evil. We must love like Jesus loved; we must touch the hearts of people like Jesus did; we must stand on the authority and power of the Word of God like Jesus did; we must have compassion like Jesus did; we must walk in spiritual power like Jesus did and in him continue to melt and destroy the works of the devil in our communities.

God needs you. God is relying on you. Take his message of goodness to the world. Show people just how good God really is and how much He cares for them. Testify to the greatness of His character, His majesty, and His love. Isn’t it about time as Christians that we put aside our petty bickering, our back stabbing, our judging, our selfishness, our hard hearts, our theological debates, and our hatred and reach out to others with the love of Christ? You can do it. You are a new creation in Christ. You are not the same person you were before Christ. Grow in Him. Grow in His goodness and love. Grow in your intimate union and fellowship with Him. Become rooted and grounded in His love and let Jesus dwell in every nook and cranny of your heart.  We would absolutely revolutionize our communities and the world if we let Jesus live through us and reach out to people with his amazing love.  The time is short; the day is at hand, and his coming is approaching closer each day. Make your heavenly Father and  your Lord Jesus proud, as you stand up and fight the good fight of faith, proclaiming His goodness to a lost and desperate world.






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The Real Easter Message

Nearly 2 billion people in the world still haven’t heard the name of Jesus even once. Most of these still live in Asia, and they are still dying without hope by the tens of thousands every day. Jesus said to take the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the world, and He has equipped His Church with everything we need to obey His commands. Another generation has passed, and where are we? It grieves me to write this, but even on the home front, the Church seems to have lost, instead of gained, ground.

Today our churches permit people to mix and match their belief systems any way they please, as long as they don’t impose their beliefs on anyone else. Having abandoned the Holy Scriptures as our standard for faith and practice, we find ourselves defenseless against the world, the flesh and the devil. The divorce rate among couples in the Church today is no better than that of the secular world. I wonder how we compare in other areas, like consumer debt, personal morality, alcohol and drug abuse, depression and suicide. Not only are Christians increasingly indistinguishable from the world in the way they live, but if you ask them, most would probably say they prefer it that way. They would rather blend into the crowd than to stand up against an increasingly hostile world.

Everywhere Christians are in retreat-and-seek-cover mode against the onslaughts of cults, nationalist movements, modern science and postmodern cynics. What is the way out of the foxhole we have dug ourselves into? It is to repent, to return to Jesus, to surrender to Him and start living as He commands us to.

Somewhere along our journey from a dead religion of laws and guilt, we modern Christians have misplaced the other side of grace. It was undoubtedly left beside the road with the best of motives. I’m sure that most of those who abandoned reality sincerely wanted to display the immeasurable love of God to a lost and needy world.

But we have failed to reveal the wonderful grace of Jesus we sing about with obedience in our everyday lives. Instead, we have produced an “old dishwater” kind of religion—that insipid, lukewarm faith that Jesus said He would spew out of His mouth! All those uncomfortable scripture verses about taking up the cross—discipline, sacrifice and suffering—somehow, they just seem to get in the way of our modern-day “convenience store” Christianity.

We’ve been taught to serve up a watered-down gospel for so long that the real Gospel has become an embarrassment. However, half a truth is no truth at all. Obedience must always be a vital part of our response to His love and grace. Faith without works is dead. It is time for us to find our balance again—to restore authentic Christianity before it’s too late. Distorted, perverted gospels always self-destruct. The disciplines of spiritual reality are “lost arts” to most modern Christians. But they have been tried, tested and proven by millions before you. They are your only way out of the fantasy and illusion of so much that seeks to counterfeit Christianity today. May I challenge you to come along and begin a journey on the road to reality? Won’t you venture out with us and journey into the heart of Jesus?

A Deadly Dichotomy

The stones of the church parking lot crunched beneath my feet in the freezing December air. It was my first Christmas in America—and I was as excited and bewildered as any two-year-old child at the wonder of it all. I had never seen a Christmas like this before! In many parts of my native India, December 25 passes without fanfare. For my people, it is just another day of bondage to sin, suffering and death—the life without Christ. You see, for untold millions in Asia, there is no Christmas. As far as they are concerned, Christ still has not come. His name, His peace and His redemption through Calvary are not yet known or understood. Asia has yet to hear the Good News of Christmas—that Christ came into the world to seek and to save lost sinners.

On the way to church that night, it seemed to me as if the whole nation were Christian. Streets, stores and malls were decorated brightly. Thousands of tired-looking people were filling their cars with bags and boxes of gifts, food and wine for the holidays. Nearly every home had colored lights, decorated trees and even life-size manger scenes telling the Christmas story.

“How these people must love Christ!” I thought. “What a wonder to live in a country that is saturated with Christians, churches and the Gospel!” Inside the church, I touched the beautifully padded pews in awe and walked carefully on the rich carpeting. Even the altar was decorated in red bows for the candlelight carols we had come to hear. A huge tree stood on one side with a large American flag on the other. The symbolism of a Christian nation celebrating the birth of the Savior was new and exciting to me.

In the front of the church was an orchestra backed by a hundred voice choir standing in the pyramid shape of “a living Christmas tree.” At first, I thought it was a tree. But then I realized it was colorfully robed men and women forming the tree. One man told me that the steel scaffolding for the display had cost the church more than $25,000. I couldn’t imagine that much money—at that time it could have built four or five village churches in Nepal or India. I looked down at the lavish program in my hands and wondered to myself how much it had cost to be printed.

Back in India, I had been involved in printing tracts for our Gospel teams, and I recalled that five cents’ worth of tracts would give the Gospel to 100 people. “But these people love the Lord,” I rebuked myself. “I mustn’t judge.” But still, the thought wouldn’t go away. If this printed program cost only 50 cents to produce, that would have been the equivalent of 1,000 tracts. (And I suspected it cost more than 50 cents!) I thought of the national missionaries I knew of in Nepal and Myanmar working without enough Gospel tracts among millions of lost Hindus and Buddhists. The rest of that first Christmas was still awesome and exciting to me, but the thought of those unprinted tracts haunted me. Why did these people who already had everything still need to buy more? Why did they send so many Christmas cards to people they hardly knew?

Why did they eat and drink so much that they often got sick? And how, I wondered, could all this be done to celebrate and proclaim the coming of the Savior? If even the very name of the Savior is still unknown to millions of lost souls, I reasoned, isn’t this self-indulgence a strange way to herald the coming of the Lord Jesus? Wouldn’t it be more fitting to proclaim the Good News of His coming to those who’ve not heard rather than to those who’ve already heard thousands of times?

Enormous Self-Deception

Since that Christmas I have traveled millions of miles, speaking to Christians. I have counseled privately with hundreds of them about their beliefs and lifestyles. What I have found has to be one of the most tragic ironies of all time: A tiny group of believers who have the Gospel keep mumbling it over and over to themselves. Meanwhile, millions who have never heard it once fall into the flames of eternal hell without ever hearing the salvation story.

Most Christians are living out that Christmas irony every day in one way or another. As individuals, their lifestyles often amount to an enormous self-deception. Who we claim to be is disconnected from what we know, and what we know is even more removed from what we do. It is so unreal. It is a mysterious but deadly spiritual dichotomy. A dichotomy is a whole divided into two parts. And we as modern Christians are living dangerously in this double contradiction of our beliefs. To choose deliberately to live in a world of unreality such as this is a disease or sickness.

Many nights, after preaching my heart out, I returned to my hotel room bitterly discouraged, asking myself how this paradox can even exist. It has to be one of the great mysteries of all time. For instance, as I was writing this book, another great missionary conference was being held where thousands were gathered from all parts of the country. Most were raised lovingly in Christian homes where the Word of God was honored. They gathered to consider the claims of Jesus Christ on their lives. Some of the greatest Christian orators of our time addressed them. Some of the finest musicians in the world played and sang to them. Beautiful films and videos portrayed the needs of a lost and dying world in vivid graphic detail. Hundreds of Christian organizations spent tens of thousands of dollars to present the desperate needs of a world without Christ. Mission leaders flew in from every continent to plead the cause of the lost. In addition, the participants themselves spent huge sums of money to come and be challenged, educated and informed.

What will the results of this enormous investment be? Thousands stood at the invitation and offered themselves for missionary service. But if this conference is like past ones, the statistical chances of even a handful of them going to the hidden peoples is almost nil. Fewer than one percent of those who respond to the altar call will ever obey the Great Commission of Christ and go to the foreign mission field. Of those who do go, many will not return for a second term of service. The percentage that will actually go to the hidden peoples of Asia, where almost 90 percent of the world’s unreached people are dying without Christ, is so small that it doesn’t show statistically!

As another example, a few years back I was privileged to speak to the youth group of one of the great evangelical churches of our day. It was a model of ministry that would be the dream come true of any pastor. These young people were exposed to the most balanced youth ministry possible. They had a full-time youth director, Bible studies many nights of the week, monthly socials, weekly fellowships, a gym and sports teams, camps, conferences, concerts, a big library, full-time counseling staff—everything! I looked forward to presenting to them the burden of Christ’s heart for the lost world. When I addressed 350 of these healthy, well-fed, bright-eyed young people with the message of New Testament Christianity, the results were incredible. With tears in my eyes, I told them of the lost and needy millions still without Christ. Many appeared deeply moved. But when I asked for a show of hands of those willing to give their lives to Christ’s service, not one was able to say, “Yes, Lord!”

Since When Is Obedience Optional?

Not one was willing to break out of that velvet cage of comfort and convenience to begin a radical lifestyle lived from an inner reality that affects the world. Since when has obedience to Christ and His Gospel become optional to Christianity? What kind of church, culture or ethnic group can produce a faith where obedience to God has become dispensable? This is the question I ask myself over and over. These examples are not unusual—just the extremes. I address thousands of people weekly. Even in the best meetings, it is rare that more than one or two percent of the listeners will pledge to support national missionaries, let alone volunteer for service on the mission field. This amazes me constantly because most believers could contribute $1 a day—almost without sacrifice. Yet that small offering can mean the difference between spiritual life or death for some tribe or village in Asia. This should ring alarm bells in our minds and hearts. Something is wrong when Christians don’t respond to what is so dear to the heart of Jesus.

What’s really wrong? How can we diagnose the causes or come to grips with this deadly problem in our Christian lives? I think it is best described as the dichotomy of the modern Christian. First, we modern Christians have divorced what we do from who we are. We have lost touch with our spiritual being or self-identity in Christ. Seldom does our spirit-man lead and dominate. We are content to act out a religion of externals, a lifestyle disconnected from the life born of the Holy Spirit in our human spirits.

Today, millions of people claim to be “born again.” By this, they mean that they have walked the aisle to be saved from hell; find peace and joy; escape from guilt; please family and friends; find wealth, health and happiness; and get that preacher off their backs!

But a religion measured in such superficial, external terms bears no resemblance to the faith of Scripture. For them, Jesus is “cool,” and being a Christian is a respectable, acceptable and normal choice. What’s more, it’s free, instant, a convenience-store item. All that is necessary is to pray a 30-word prayer, sign a little card or put your hand on the television screen—and you’re in! This modern Christianity is weak on the Gospels. You rarely hear an evangelist preach from Matthew, Mark or Luke. To do so would mean that the ego demands of Christ on His followers would have to become a central concern.

Thus, the false religion of popular Christianity does not ask us to internalize the passion and mind of Christ, to surrender our egos, lay aside our flesh, take up the cross and begin a lifestyle marked by submission to the will of the Father as He did. We are also seldom asked to internalize the commands of Christ— to begin a lifestyle of sacrifice, service and suffering for the sake of our Lord. We are not asked to love as He loved, walk where He walked, interact with the kind of sinful people He did and live the life of self- sacrificing service that was His trademark.

But what about that vast network of Christian activities that so often preoccupies our hearts, hands and minds? Don’t our frenzied lives prove our piety? I cannot look at them without asking the critical question: From where does this current wave of activism spring? Will it pass through the fires of judgment? Is it the work of our own hands and egos, or does it spring from the heart of Jesus? If your Christian service were to end today, would it make any difference in eternity? Second, we modern Christians are divorced from what we know.

Until you travel to some of the poorest nations in Asia, you cannot appreciate the religious information glut we have. Christians here are blessed with thousands of Christian books and DVDs, 24-hour Christian radio and television, conferences and seminars, and all the Christian resources of the Internet. Someone has said that there are more than 1,000 commentaries on the book of Acts in the English language—but not 100 Christians living with the power of New Testament Christianity. All too often, it seems, we’re willing to be students of Christianity rather than disciples of Christ. The fact is that most of us are substituting learning and information for practical obedience.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of Christian missions. The focus has shifted to learning about the hidden and unreached peoples rather than going to them. Probably no culture has been better able to fulfill that frightening prophecy in 2 Timothy 3:1–8. We are a people “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” We are indeed “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” Never in history has there been a society with so much information about God, but so little real knowledge of the Holy One.

Whatever the reason for this lack of spiritual reality, it cannot be a lack of teaching resources. We have shamefully hoarded Christian knowledge, preventing the rest of the world from finding out the truth—while not taking advantage of the knowledge it possesses.

Why Are We Still Spiritual Babies?

The question that faces us is this: How can a Christian culture that knows so much truth fail to perform? Why do we have all this Bible study? Our Sunday school and Christian education programs? Our Holy Land tours and Christian sea cruises? Our camps, retreats, seminars, conferences, books, magazines, newspapers, videos and broadcasting? Why do we now even have Christian theme parks, family theaters and coffee houses? Isn’t the reason to be like Christ? Isn’t that what we say?

Then why are we still spiritual babies? Kindergarten Christians? Why is there so little power and holiness in our lives? Why aren’t we manifesting Christ to our friends, neighbors, classmates and peers? Why aren’t we incarnating Him to those across town in our own inner cities—and to the lost billions still in darkness around the world?

Not What We Do,  but Who We Are

Certain truths have become evident. One of the most devastating is the fact that the concept of missions has been so cheapened that many Christians now equate it with fund-raising. It has been reduced to just another appeal for money, similar to the annual budget campaign or the building fund drive. If and when missions is reduced to a dollars-and-cents decision—merely another option for our giving—we prove that we have lost sight of the Savior. The test of our true affection is not how much we give, but how we live. Missions is not something we do, but something we are. There is a principle at work here: Self-centered Christians cannot and will not respond to Christ because they are not submitted to Him as their Head. Dichotomized Christians have reproduced their schizophrenic personal lives in the corporate life of the body. Disobedient Christians produce disobedient churches!

Christ’s Unchanging Mandate

Jesus has made clear the mission mandate for each one of us who claims to follow Him. He said that He lived to do the will of His Father; the fields of lost souls were white unto harvest; and He was sending us into those fields just as the Father had sent Him (John 4:34–38). That means “missions” is simply an extension of His life, working through your life, to reach this generation with the love of God for a lost humanity. God is not asking us to give money to missions, but to make missions the central passion of our lives! The Church, as the corporate expression of the Body of Christ, exists only to fulfill His will. And what is His will? He is “. . . not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Christ meant His Church to be primarily a missionary organization—or better yet, a missionary organism. The Body of Christ, His Church, is the living presence of a God whose heart is pounding with a passion for lost and dying souls. We must therefore be fellowshipping and worshiping with one thing in mind: reaching lost men and women wherever they are. We are to be a people willing to exchange anything and everything we have for the pearl of great price—the kingdom of God. Jesus was always pressing on to preach the Gospel in the next village. His heart’s cry and prayer was for the dead and dying, for the lost, sick and undone. And the heart of every true disciple who follows in the steps of Jesus will be the same. We must be willing, as He was, to let everything go for the sake of lost souls—to give our lives to recapture just one lost inch of territory from darkness and hell.

How can a church that does not reflect this spirit really be the bride of Christ? What explanation or rationalization can we offer to explain the condition of Christianity today? The Bible offers us little help. It doesn’t give much space to descriptions of a church that appears to be nothing less than a headless corpse. How else can we describe a church body that appears to have fallen so far away from the commands of its mind—the Lord Jesus? Let me elaborate:

Feed-Me-First Fixation

We have a feed-me-first fixation. Christianity today is stuck in a rut of self-development. It is a me-and-mine style religion that survives on an endless diet of books, video teachings, conferences and seminars. This fat-head faith has produced a generation of Christians who know all the answers but won’t cross the street to help a neighbor in spiritual distress. This demonic reasoning goes, “Me first—after all, I can’t help others until I help myself!” We’re content to sit in our comfortable pews week after week sucking on our spiritual baby bottles—as long as the religious entertainment offered doesn’t interfere with lunch or the ball game.

That this style of religion has no effect whatsoever on our Monday morning lifestyle doesn’t matter. It wasn’t meant to make a difference at work, school or play in the first place. Our newest churches, with their air-conditioned atriums and gymnasiums, are being designed with the best ambiance money can buy. The designers don’t want us to feel too much different there from the way we do at the mall or health club.

Our churches are patterning their architecture, evangelism and programs after the world rather than the dictates of Christ through the Holy Spirit. For far too long, we’ve grabbed the latest fad in the world and baptized it into the church by adding a cute phrase or two. So “Jazzercise” became “Praisercise,” and computer dating services became Christian singles’ clubs. Rock ’n’ roll emerged as “Christian rock music,” and the heavy metal sound was reborn as something called “Christian shock-rock.” The list goes on and on. There are hundreds of examples. A look at our church activity calendars reveals not a body of givers, but a society of receivers. Even our prayer meetings are little more than “bless-me” clubs. Could it be that we have let our churches become elaborate social programs with the name of God tacked on as an afterthought?

Was Karl Marx right in this case? Isn’t this kind of religion really a narcotic—“the opiate of the people”? This is “convenience store” Christianity. The pastor’s main job is to find ways to sugarcoat the Gospel message, making sure that he preaches a gospel that offends no one and runs a church that meets every imaginable mental and physical need. It is a religion that loves to quote “charity begins at home” when the subject of missions comes up. It reminds us that Jerusalem must get in line to be fed first, but never gets around to quoting the part of the verse about “Judea and Samaria” and especially the “uttermost parts of the earth.”

What does the Lord Jesus think of our religious merry-go-round? The question that must be asked of every Christian activity we support is simply this: Will this event create any impact on a lost and dying world? If the answer is no, then we must reconsider sponsoring it. We must ask if this is something from our agenda or His.

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). We have switched to a retreat and survival mode. Actually confronting the takeover of our school systems and institutions by decades of secular humanism is too much of a strain for our kind of religion. That would require going out and witnessing to the publicans and sinners of our day. So we are running into temporary survival shelters such as Christian schools, religious radio and television broadcasts, Christian concerts and myriad other escapisms.

The controlling force behind this massive retreat from the post-Christian, secularized culture is fear rather than holiness. It is laziness rather than righteousness. And it is born from a lack of love rather than a genuine desire for separation. Could it be that these “good things” are really enemies of the best? “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

What Really Is Going On?

We have established a social caste system in our churches and institutions. I thought only Hinduism had a system of social discrimination, but experience proves that religion by itself almost always divides rather than unites people. There are those who congregate in churches for all kinds of reasons other than the biblical one! Many churches will sell out and move their property if a neighborhood starts to change racially or economically. No cost is too great to preserve the class distinctions that created the church in the first place. We will pay any price to maintain a church without people who are different from us in any way.

Could it be that at the root of most of our denominations and local church splits is not a pious struggle for truth—but an invisible system of discrimination against others based on age, race, education and economic background? And what a tragedy we see on the mission field when some of these same denominations try to export their schisms and divisive teachings to the churches of the Third World. Let’s face it. We like to be with our own kind. A church that asks us to love and reach out to the unlovely or to those different from us is unthinkable—yet it was the core of Christ’s evangelistic lifestyle.

We need to repent of the loveless, intolerant, self-centered Christianity that has become one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the Church today. Some modern church growth teachers are now openly applying marketing techniques to further divide and create churches based on demographics rather than spiritual birth. This used to be done by tiny committees of racial bigots who met secretly. Today it is being taught as church growth in some of our seminaries! “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).

We are fascinated by having the best and the biggest. Social scientists say that the last sign of life in any movement comes when it starts to build monument-style buildings. Why do we insist on building the largest and most impressive structures in our city when people on the other side of town are hungry, jobless and worshiping in storefronts? Why do we construct extravagant, inefficient buildings at all? What motivates us to try to be the biggest and the best? Who taught us that “bigger is better” and “nothing is too good for the house of the Lord”? Did God tell us this, or have we learned it from the world?

We need to start asking ourselves hard questions. How can we be making monthly church mortgage payments of $50,000 and still say we don’t have enough in the budget for missions? Can we square this extravagance with the commands of our Lord who said, “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another?” (John 5:44). We are taken up with bumper-sticker theology. Any kind of spiritual thought that goes beyond “how to have a happy family” seems to be incomprehensible to modern Christians. The only kind of Christianity we want is a pragmatic kind that shows us how to have a positive mental attitude, get ahead with our career plans, win friends and influence people.

What’s happened is that we’ve made over our theology and preaching agenda into an image of ourselves. When I first began to preach about the necessity for a transformed and obedient life, someone would always come up to me and say, “Let’s be careful here not to put people on guilt trips and teach legalism.” Such people want the Gospel and the Bible to stop with the phrase, “Christians aren’t perfect; they’re just forgiven.” That’s the end of their theology. That’s all that fits on their bumper sticker!

Well, that’s not the Gospel—and I’m not teaching perfectionism either. But we have to question a Christianity that has so distorted the doctrine of grace that a simple call to obedience is mistaken for legalism. Challenging people to live the normal Christian life rather than accommodate themselves to sin is not a guilt trip or manipulation. These phrases are frequently used today as a smoke-screen defense by self-serving believers who don’t want their fantasy-land religion upset by the truth. This narrow view of salvation has impoverished our faith more than we realize.

Whatever happened to the teachings of Jesus on eternal judgment in hell? Why don’t we warn people about the terrible punishment that awaits them if they don’t turn back to God now? It’s astonishing that so-called Bible-believing Christians have, in effect, taken a pair of scissors and snipped out vast sections of the Scriptures.

Jesus lived daily with an awareness of the awful consequences of rejecting the grace of God—but why isn’t His Body connected today to the passion of a Savior who died to save men and women from eternal flames? How can we be casual about the lost world when God considered it so important that His only solution was Calvary?

“This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:6–7).

We have spoiled our children and youth. Why is it that the young people of our churches are given fun and games rather than the challenge of the Great Commission? The preteen and teenage years are so critical. This is when most young people choose their careers and mates—probably the two biggest decisions that determine the course of any believer’s life. Anyone who has ever worked with adolescents will tell you that this is probably the highest point in our lives for energy and idealism. Teens want to test out the ethics and morality of their church and parents to see if it really works.

But what are we giving them instead? The standard answer is to hire a youth director to plan parties and trips based around the premise: “You can be a Christian and have fun too!” How many millions of our youth have been ruined by the introduction of this worldly Christianity just at the moment in life when they most need to see reality?

What would happen if instead we treated our youth with total seriousness, exposing them to mission field learning experiences? Opportunities to love and sacrifice for others? To serve on the front lines of the Gospel? Will parents back this kind of program? If not, why not? How long can we go on ducking this question? We have ruled out the supernatural and opted for self-sufficient, computerized Christianity. Technology is the modern-day magic of our culture. It gives its users an incredible but false sense of power and control. To many today, knowledge and information have become equal to doing.

This is why the Church has become the world’s greatest collector of knowledge and expertise. And this is also why we’re so dependent today on consultants. How many pastors spend far more time meeting with church-growth consultants, fund-raisers and salesmen than they do seeking the face of God for His will, plans and solutions? We are becoming more and more dependent on horizontal, rationalistic, here-and-now solutions to our problems. We’ve become terrific consumers of products, seminars, shortcuts—anything, it seems, that does not require us to wait on the Lord for vertical solutions to our dilemmas.

Stand outside a typical church next weekend and watch the congregation leave the worship service. Why do so many look as if they’ve just left the local movie theater, laughing and casual? Why are others sad and troubled with unsolved personal problems? Why are some so obviously bound by addictions and sin? Are these the faces of people who have had a face-to-face encounter with the Living God? Where is the reverence and awe we would expect from a people who have just witnessed the miraculous? What is really going on in our churches today?

The haunting question that must be asked about the status of Christianity is this: Why do a people who have so much have so little? With all this knowledge and skill, why is there no great move of God in our churches today? When are we going to look ourselves in the mirror and say, “OK, I know enough now. I’ve trained enough. I’ve consulted enough. What am I going to do about my knowledge of God and His ways? When is my life going to demonstrate His compassion to the needy world around me?”

We are following false shepherds. The Church today is being ravaged by deceived men who spread half-gospels and lead millions of people astray with false teachings. I don’t want to take time and space here to list examples of these religious con-artists, and there would be very little profit in doing so anyway. It’s sufficient to say that they’re everywhere, and many of them sound doctrinally correct.

But we should be asking some even more relevant questions, not resting until we get the answers in our spirits: Why do we let these people into our homes via radio, television and the Internet? Why do we go to their seminars, conferences and churches? Why do we buy their books and DVDs? Why do we give millions of dollars to keep their man-centered ministries going? Few Christians can say they haven’t been taken in by these wolves at one time or another. What is it, then, that is making us so vulnerable to their seductive doctrines?

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, . . . beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; . . . These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest: to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever (2 Peter 2:1, 14, 17).

Hyper-activism and Dead Works

We have fallen victim to hyper-activism and dead works. Modern churches are among the most frenzied organizations in the world. In almost any average-sized community, the calendar is so full that you can keep going almost day and night on a year-round basis. The unwary believer is challenged constantly to join this merry-go-round of religious activities and fellowship. Because yielding the time and money we control to Christ is such an important test of stewardship, many a sincere but naïve Christian falls into this trap of carnal activism.

For many, workaholism is as addictive as alcohol or smoking. Such victims of religious “busyness” are little different from cultists on the treadmill of earning their salvation by penance, selling books or doing good works. Their bookshelves are full of Christian books and videos. They’re always off to another meeting or seminar. Christian broadcasts and CDs play in their cars. They’re the kind of people who are present every time the church door opens. But in the wake of these busy Christians are often broken homes, relationships and churches. Family, friends and co-workers shake their heads and instinctively pull back. Jesus predicted that the branch connected to the vine would produce much spiritual fruit. But too often our frantic lives are barren.

Where in our oh, so busy, busy lives of Christian service is Christ Himself? Where is the fruit that would authenticate our works? Are we merely acting out the motions of the Christian life, or is the Spirit of God being released in our religious activities? To answer this question and so many others, we need to cross a bridge. Too few modern Christians even know it exists—but there is no other way for the world-weary believer to go. It means giving up our fairy-tale notions about Christ and Christianity. It means stepping away from the comfortable Christianity—the one we have conformed to our culture. But for the man and woman God uses, there can be no other direction.

How Long Will We Be Duped?

By now I’m sure you’re already asking yourself the most critical of all questions: Is there any hope for a people who have fallen so far away from authentic Christian living? Recently a dear friend and fellow minister in New York City went through an experience that has to be every parent’s worst nightmare. And I need to tell this story at this point because I think it parallels vividly what I’ve been trying to say about Christians and Christian culture today. This true story gives me hope and confidence in the measureless grace of God.

For the sake of those involved, I’ll call their daughter Mary. Although Mary appeared to be a model child in her early years, she and the whole family obviously had many unresolved spiritual and mental problems. Mary grew up in the church, surrounded with every physical and spiritual advantage a child could have. I had stayed in their home on several occasions—yet nothing prepared me for the shock of what this beautiful girl became in her rebellious teenage years. As a high school sophomore, she began having behavior problems at church and school. Frustrated family and friends couldn’t get through to her. Numerous attempts at counseling only made the problems worse. Mary refused to listen to even the most loving advice. It seemed that if something was against the rules, Mary had to do it—the more outrageous, the better! Eventually, no one could control her. She began disappearing for days on end to act out a prodigal life of drug abuse and illicit sex, which led to suicide attempts. Her father and other friends from church often walked the streets of Times Square looking for her among the thousands of teenage runaways who were attracted there from all over the nation.

After many attempts to stop her, one discouraged friend after another quit trying to get through. Thus began two years of life in and out of jails, institutions and hospitals. Mary’s life was still on a fast track to destruction when the Lord finally reached her in a rescue mission. Thank God, her story has a happy ending. She turned back to Christ and today is living for the Lord.

But I tell this story of Mary the prodigal because it could easily be the story of the Christian church today. We also are prodigal. As congregations—and as individuals—we’re out of touch with reality. Like Mary, we’re not listening, not submitting to our spiritual head. What’s more, we’re in such total rebellion against Christ that we’re hardly aware anything is wrong! In our story, Mary finally came to that point where she realized she had to return to God or end up dead in some back alley. But although Christianity today is desperately sick, still we refuse to admit our need for crisis intervention. We’re so busy with our own plans, agendas, activities and pleasures that we’ve lost sight of the one and only purpose for which Christ redeemed us.

The world is dictating its standards to us, and believers have been taken captive by the powers of darkness. We are living in a generation that is no more the Body of Christ exercising authority over the powers of this world. Instead, the world is dictating its sordid standards to us. We are not manifesting the life and power of Christ. Instead, we’re living in captivity and bondage. We are not storming the gates of hell. Instead, we’re falling over one another in retreat—looking for foxholes, hiding from the Enemy. Why is the army of God in retreat before the world, the flesh and the devil? Will we ever again be able to display the glorious love of the living Christ? Will this dark and dying world ever see Jesus in us again?

My answer is yes—a thousand times, yes! There is a way out of this mess. We don’t have to remain living in powerless, insipid hypocrisy. God has ordained for us to demonstrate Christ to a lost and dying world. He wills for us to have victory. He wants us to recover our lost authority and live again as He did. Authentic Christianity is not reserved only for missionary heroes and super-saints. It is not something that happens only on faraway foreign fields or in the pages of the Bible. It must and will blossom forth right on the street where you live, at your work, in your school. It is for every believer, whatever your calling or circumstances. Jesus wants to extend Himself into your world. However, for this miracle of abundant life to happen, you must make daily choices. God will never force you to walk the road to spiritual reality. It is a journey you must decide to begin personally.

Spiritual reality begins when, like Moses at the burning bush, we come face-to-face with the Living God. Up until that moment, Moses had tried in his own power to deliver Israel without success. His self-appointed rescue attempts floundered, but then for the first time, he saw the invisible Creator on the mount of God. What a transformation came to this disgraced prince. Moses was empowered from on high. From then on, he counted it a privilege to forsake the splendor of Egypt and suffer with the people of God.

Could it be that many of us have not yet turned aside at the burning bush to gaze at the real Jesus? We must begin our spiritual journey there—not with the plastic substitutes so often offered on the airwaves today. How long will we go on being duped by the phony “christs” that are circulated by the purveyors of television’s pop religion? The secret of the abundant life is Christ and Christ alone. We must see the real Jesus. We must have a correct vision of who He is and, therefore, who we are to incarnate and serve during our time on earth. Only then will we begin to rediscover the authority, glory and power of His majesty. He is head of the Church and our Lord. We were made for Him and His pleasure. This is not the same God we are being taught to manipulate and order about by the superstars of today’s religion. The true Jesus rules— and that means He rules us. The true Jesus reigns—and that means He reigns over us. We must learn that our proper place is at the feet of the Lord Jesus. Only then will we find the key to unlock His plans and purposes in our individual lives. What awe, reverence and worship the very names of our Lord should evoke in the spirit of every true believer.

As we have a fuller realization of our true place in creation, the wonder of Christ dwelling in us becomes the beginning of understanding. Yet this awareness remains a secret to so many in our age, because our real worship has shifted from the King of the universe. We adore our own abilities, bodies, minds and talents rather than the God who gave them to us.

Contrary to the popular thinking of Christianity today, the Lord did not reach down and save us from sin and death so that we might be merely happy, healthy and wealthy. Those who teach this have invented another gospel and portray a false christ—the god of this age rather than the God of the Bible. A gospel without the cross is no Gospel at all.

God’s purpose for man, from the moment He created us, has never changed. We have always been destined for the throne—created to rule with the One who created all things for Himself. First, we are to be the Body—the hands and feet of Jesus in this present world. “And he is the head of the body, the church,” says Colossians 1:18. All who believe and have been baptized into Christ are the Church. Now we know that our head, Jesus Christ, is at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us. But the Bible says His body is somewhere else. His body is us. We are left here on earth to carry out His desires and will. The purpose of the body is to fulfill the commands, desires and wishes of the head. We are attached to the head so that we might manifest the mind of Christ and do His will on earth.

God has so ordered the world that right now we are His primary agents of redemption to lost humanity. Our hands are His hands; our feet are His feet; our tongues are His tongue. This means that the basic way God expresses His limitless love today is through the Church. Lost men and women in this dark and dying world will not be found unless we search for them. In 1 John 4:17 we read, “As he is, so are we in this world.” I love the way Moffatt translates this in his classic version of the English New Testament. It reads, “. . . since in this world we are living as He is.”

This makes it abundantly clear that a believer’s life ought to so represent Christ that the world can once again see Jesus. We follow Him in a way that others can taste again the presence of Jesus walking and living among them. The only way that Christ is presently incarnated to a lost world is through us—we are carrying on and extending His presence, His Word and His works to a new generation. When Jesus walked the shores of Galilee, He revealed the image of the Father to lost and sinful men. This glorious ministry is now ours as we reveal the mind of Christ to the lost around us.

Second, we are ambassadors of Christ in the courts of a rebellious world. As Jesus prepared to leave this world and return to His Father, He called the disciples together. “All authority is given to Me in heaven and in earth,” He declared. “Now go in My name—as the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” Later, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul described us as “Christ’s ambassadors.”

An ambassador is a person who represents his country in an alien land. He is given authority by his government to represent the best interests of his nation. He can make and break contracts for his government and handle all kinds of affairs, both civil and military. Ambassadors exercise enormous power and influence, particularly when they represent a powerful kingdom.

The Bible tells us that we are no more citizens of this world. Our citizenship is in heaven. We have been translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. We belong to our sovereign King, and His name is Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords. As ambassadors sent to this world from another kingdom, how then are we to live and represent our King? Under a real monarchy, you do not debate the wishes of the king. You simply obey without discussion or question.

The Lord Jesus left us with a clear picture of His desires for our generation. We know from Scripture exactly what He wants us to be doing. We even know what kind of behavior He wants the world to see in us, because He taught us His lifestyle both by word and example.

Third, He wants us to operate in His authority and power. Christ wants us to move in the same mysterious authority and power that surrounded His earthly ministry. In Matthew 7:29 we read, “For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” He confounded the best academics and theologians of His day—as well as kings and rulers of all sorts. From the beginning of the Church, we see this same quality reproduced among the apostles.

In Acts 4, Peter and John are dragged before the Sanhedrin—the most powerful religious court in Israel. They are questioned about where they received authority and power to heal a cripple. In verse 10, Peter, in the power of the Holy Spirit, boldly replies, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.” This was an eloquent answer, and it stunned the lawyers and priests. In verse 13 we read, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”

Now we get the full picture. These highly educated, suave, sophisticated leaders recognized that something unusual was happening. Something out of this world was going on! They weren’t used to having a bunch of blue-collar “rednecks” answer like that. By this they knew that these less-educated fishermen had been with Jesus. The same energy that blazed out at them from the Galilean they had killed was alive again in these disciples. Those who did not want such light and life were very threatened.

So we see that through Christ we are potentially restored to live as God originally intended man to live in the Garden of Eden. God gave man authority in Genesis chapter one—and now we are expected to live and serve Him in that power. Does this “job description” make you feel a little uncomfortable? It did me, too, when I compared the lives we lead today with the life of a normal Christian as described in the New Testament. How is it possible to live as His body, be His ambassador and operate in His power and authority? Isn’t God making impossible demands on His fallen creation? Of course not! God would not ask us to have this kind of authority and power-filled life without also making a provision for us to live such a supernatural existence.

The key scripture that explains the secret of this divine indwelling is Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” God does not commit His authority at random to anyone. This verse is basic to understanding the process of incarnating Christ to our generation.

Christ’s life is mine by faith. It is called by many names, but this exchanged life is the only acceptable New Testament norm. Anything less is a sick substitute for reality. I have been crucified—it is no longer I who live. Our ego is dead. Our will is submitted and surrendered. We cannot let circumstances, family, friends, the government, the media, religious leaders or Satan himself lead us to anything less than reality.

But something is still very wrong. Why are so few living out the “not I, but Christ” lifestyle that Paul describes in Galatians 2:20? Although God eagerly desires to manifest Himself within us, I believe it is because so few of us have learned to let the cross do its deadly work in our flesh on a daily basis. We haven’t yet come to a full understanding of the cross. We must return to Calvary.

The glory and presence of Christ will return to our lives and churches only when we have rediscovered the cross of Christ. The cross has two operations. First, on it Christ paid the penalty for our sins and thus bought our eternal salvation. But it doesn’t stop there. The second work of the cross provides for our ongoing sanctification—the daily, continuous crucifixion of our flesh.

This great doctrine is not very popular lately because it requires a voluntary acceptance of death to ego or self. Someone has put it this way, “If self is on the throne, then Christ is on the cross. If Christ is on the throne, then self is on the cross.” This is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:10 that we are “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” Accepting death to my ego is the only way to manifest the life of Christ. Putting my “self” to death is the only way to exchange my life for His.

I believe that this is the real meaning of Galatians 2:20 when Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ.” So here is the spiritual law of the flesh: The measure to which I will manifest the life of Christ is the same measure to which I am willing to put my “self” to death.

When Jesus walked on earth, God was showing us not only what He was like but also what He wanted man to be like. Jesus had authority and power because He constantly submitted Himself to the will of the Father in every matter. Christ pleased the Father and reflected the Father perfectly because He perfectly put to death His flesh. And we repeat this cycle as we submit to our head, the Lord Jesus. This is the life that is connected to Jesus, the head, on a decision by-decision basis. It is the submitted, dead-to-self life that the Lord can animate and use for His glory. It is the only kind of life He will empower and use.

If we’re rightly connected to the head in this way, it would be hard to imagine making any decision without first submitting it to Christ for His approval. What would that do to the way we spend our time? What does Christ say about the television shows and the movies we view, the music we listen to, or the catalogs and magazines we read? What about our activities—church, clubs, leisure time, friendships, hobbies, prayer, service, sports and study? What about our relationships with boyfriends, girlfriends, mentors and role models? Whom do we idolize and pattern our lives after? What about our purchases, both the large and small ones? Is our shopping basket under His control? Does He direct the checks we write? What about the “big buys”—our car, home and insurance? What about our intake of food and drink? Is Christ or our appetites in control? And of course, there are those major decisions in life—full-time missionary service, career and job plans, education and the choice of a mate.

For the Christian, none of these things is any longer a personal decision. It is not what others say, what self says or what circumstances dictate. The only valid question is always, What does Christ say to me about this decision? But most of us find ourselves making even the big decisions without prayer and waiting for guidance from the Holy Spirit. Obviously, the gap between this kind of biblical Christianity and the shallow spirituality of our day is a significant one. How different is this kind of self-sacrificing faith from the pleasure-seeking, self-serving, wimpy religion so often preached and practiced in our churches!

The Bible contains unchanging laws. Therefore, we cannot cast out, bind with spiritual words, deny or command away that which the Bible declares needs to be crucified—our flesh. There is no shortcut to the victorious life. God is not going to put your flesh to death for you. He did His part on Calvary. Now we are told in Romans 8 to “mortify the deeds of the body.” We must choose to experience the reality of Galatians 2:20.

Some people believe they need to wait on God to deliver them, to come and crucify their flesh. They have a false notion that they have to remain neutral and let God do some kind of “sanctification work” on their flesh. Nothing could be further from the truth. His work was completed on the cross 2,000 years ago. Now we have to act on the freedom He has earned for us. We are called upon to put the flesh to death on a moment-by-moment basis—by faith—in the same way receive salvation in the first place. It is all of grace by faith. The only human action required is the submission of your will to His.

Unless we as humans are tied into and connected to Christ our head, we are nothing and have no purpose. Even the greatest geniuses of art and science are only a marred, shallow reflection of the God who created our universe in the first place. Jesus died that we might be plugged into Him, as the branches are part of the vine.

The Bible tells us that all the works of the flesh will be burned up. How hard it is to accept this. We still want to do the work of the Lord in our own power and strength—be it with our education, talent or wealth. But in the eyes of God, it is still just educated flesh, talented flesh or rich flesh—all to be burned up in judgment and rejected by Him. We must come to that place of absolute understanding that as human beings there is nothing in us—not our looks, background, education, riches, talents or anything else you can add—that will enable us to live the kind of life God wants us to live in our generation.

You see, following Christ means making a 180-degree turnaround. It is an exchange. My life for His life. There is no longer any parallel existence of both together. It is no longer what I want. It is not my will, my way, my plans, my wishes—but only what He wants. The question is always, What does my Master say? What does He want? Then all that I have is His. My hands, legs, heart, eyes, ears, finances, family, dreams and visions—everything belongs to Christ. He is able to live, breathe, walk, touch, weep, look and hear through the earthen vessel of my body.

This is the true message of Easter!

Excerpt from The Road to Reality: Coming Home to Jesus from an Unreal World by K.P. Yohannan

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Why Are You Afraid?

I would like to invite you to return to where we left off a few weeks ago in our studies in the gospel of Mark. We will examine two incidents — the stilling of the storm on the sea of Galilee, and that which follows immediately, the healing of the demoniac. It is very appropriate that these two incidents be brought before us, for both deal with the problem of fear, with what to do about fear.

The Scriptures deal often with the subject of fear among believers, or among human beings in general, because it is so common to our humanity. These two incidents will help us. The background of the first is in Chapter 4, Verses 35-36:

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them, just as he was, in the boat. And other boats were with him. (Mark 4:35-36 RSV)

It is clear that this comes when our Lord was at the point of utter physical exhaustion. You remember that in this section of Mark we are dealing with a theme which Mark emphasizes in several incidents — the effects of popularity upon the ministry of Jesus. This is the time in his ministry when he is beset with crowds everywhere he turns, multitudes of people thronging from all over the country, jostling, crowding about him, demanding to be healed of many diseases. Mark tells us how Jesus seeks to quiet their attention toward physical healing and to awaken them toward spiritual truth. The first incidents revealed to us the opposition that popularity awakens. Popularity is not all good; it can be very bad, at times. And it awakened a satanic opposition against his ministry. Then in the next section we saw how this popularity necessitated a dimming of light, as manifested in the parables Jesus began to speak in place of the absolutely open statement of the truth he gave earlier.

And now we come to the physical exhaustion produced by the tremendous demands of the crowds upon Jesus. Here he is, at the end of a very heavy day of teaching, of ministering, and of healing. He is worn out. He gets in the boat and says to the disciples, “Let’s get away. Let’s go to the other side of the lake” — to the eastern shore, about five miles away. Mark makes clear that this was unpremeditated on Jesus’ part: “They took him with them, just as he was.” He made no preparation for this journey. And the incident which follows grew out of these circumstances.

Mark also indicates that there were certain witnesses present to testify to the unusual phenomenon which occurred: “And other boats were with him.” Mark adds that to reassure us that what happened during that journey was not an hallucination.

One of the popular commentators on this section suggests that there really was no stilling of the storm, that what happened in the midst of this great storm was that our Lord merely settled the disciples’ fear, and that there was a great calm in their hearts. It was the peace that came into their hearts which made them think he had done a miracle and stilled the storm. But this does not take note of the fact that there were other boats nearby whose occupants saw this miracle and bore witness of it. The incident is recorded in the verses that follow:

And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:37-39 RSV)

There are all the raw elements of drama in that incident. There is the raging storm which came suddenly upon the sea. This happens yet today in the rugged country to the northeast of the sea of Galilee, what today we call the Golan Heights. In that broken, torn terrain, it is easy for the winds to gather and suddenly to break out upon the sea. Under these conditions, a violent and raging storm can arise in just a few moments. As these disciples set out in the calm of the evening to cross to the eastern shore, such a storm broke out. Within moments the sea was frothing, waves mounting up. It was a great wind, Mark says. They found themselves in the midst of this tremendous, raging storm, the boat filling rapidly as water came dashing over the bow. The disciples panicked! Sailors though they were, they knew this storm was greater than anything they had seen before, and they feared they were going to perish. So they came and woke Jesus, asking, “Teacher, do you not care that we perish?”

This indicates the storm had already begun when Jesus went to sleep. If it had not, they would not have charged him with indifference to their plight. If he had gone to sleep immediately and not even known the storm had arisen, they would have wakened him to let him know. But they charged him with indifference. In the midst of a growing peril, Jesus had gone to sleep. This is what bothered the disciples. So they came to him, concerned and upset not only because of their common peril but because of the apparent indifference of the Lord to their need.

Have you ever felt like that? These incidents in Scripture are not merely to tell us what happened two thousand years ago; they are parables for us, designed to illustrate exactly what happens to us in the spiritual realm of our lives. Who of us has not felt this way at times? Here we are in trouble, and God does not seem to care. There is no answer to our prayers. He seems indifferent. Nothing seems to happen when we go to him troubled and distraught and panicky. We cry out, and there is no answer. This was the trouble with these disciples.

But then as they woke him, our Lord arose and, without saying a word to them at first, rebuked the wind and, literally, “muzzled” the sea, and then reproached the disciples. They had come with the words, “Don’t you care that we’re perishing?” Matthew adds that they said, “Save us, Lord, or we perish!” (Matthew 8:25). I do not know what they expected him to do. What he did do took them utterly by surprise; they did not expect it. But they were panicky, and when we panic, this is our attitude is it not? They were saying, in effect, “Don’t just lie there; do something!” So he arose, and his first words were to rebuke the wind and muzzle the sea. He said to the wind, “Peace!” and to the sea, “Be still!” And what happened astonished these disciples there suddenly came a great calm.

Now, the miracle lies not in the stilling of the storm, for even nature would do that eventually, but in the suddenness with which it happened. All of a sudden the wind, which had been roaring and beating about their ears, stopped, and there was absolute stillness. And the waves, which had been dashing over the bow, filling the boat, threatening them, mounting up higher on every side, were suddenly stilled, as though a giant hand pressed them down, and there was a great calm. This is what impressed them. All the way across the lake to the other side, and to the mountains on the east, the whole lake suddenly stilled, and they realized that this was indeed a supernatural stilling of the storm.

When the account says that the Lord rebuked the wind and spoke to the sea, “Be muzzled, Be quiet!” we need to understand that he was not really speaking to the elements. After all, what good does it do to address the air as it is flowing by? Or to speak to water that is raging? I think of the story of the king who tried to stop the tides, commanded them to cease, and they ignored him, as tides will, and came rolling right on in. No, I do not think our Lord was really speaking to these elements of air and sea. What we need to understand from this is that he, knowing so clearly and so well that which is invisible to us and which we so often forget, spoke rather to the demonic forces behind the raging of the storm and the sea.

We must never forget that we live in a fallen world, and that, as the Scriptures tell us, the whole world is in the grip of the devil and his agents. This includes the physical world as well. Behind the disasters we read of so frequently, and sometimes experience — earthquakes. famines, floods, droughts, cyclones, tornadoes, hurricanes — is oftentimes the malevolent attack of Satan upon humanity. Jesus understood this, and he rebuked not the wind, but the one who aroused it. He lived in the constant realization, as the Apostle Paul said, that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, wicked spirits in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV), who are able to affect humanity at various levels of life. It was these Jesus rebuked. Interestingly, the words he used here are exactly the same words he used when he rebuked the demon that interrupted his discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum, as recorded in the first chapter of this book. So he is addressing the unseen, invisible world here. The result was a great calm. Then he chided the disciples:

He said to them, “Why are you afraid?” (Mark 4:40b RSV)

Is that not a strange question to ask men who were in danger of losing their lives? Just a moment earlier they were tossing about in a boat which was filling rapidly with water, in the midst of a raging storm, with no hope of help. Why shouldn’t they be afraid? Yet Jesus asked them, “Why are you afraid?” And then he put his finger on the reason:

“Have you no faith?” (Mark 4:40c RSV)

This is why people become afraid — because they lose faith. Faith is the answer to fear. This is the first lesson which comes to us out of this incident. Faith is always the answer to our fears, regardless of what they are. Jesus put his finger right on it: “Have you no faith?”

Well, evidently they did not. They had forgotten all the things he said to them in the Sermon on the Mount about the extent of God’s care for them: “You are much more valuable than flowers and birds. God cares for them; will he not much more care for you, O ye of little faith?” Matthew 6:30). Here he was in the boat with them; their fate would be his fate; and yet they had forgotten this.

How would these men have acted, do you think, if they had had faith? Suppose their faith had been strong — their faith in him and in God’s care and love — what would they have done? One thing is certain: they would not have wakened him; they would have let him rest. He was weary and tired, and needed the rest badly. They would have done so because their faith would have reminded them of two great facts: One, the boat will not sink; it cannot sink when the Master of ocean and earth and sky is in it. Two, the storm will not last forever.

A year or so ago, a good friend of mine, a handsome young evangelist from another country, told me about all the troubles he and his wife were going through. He was very dejected. She was struggling with severe physical problems ill health arising from asthma and bronchitis which constantly kept her down. They had gone through years of struggle with this condition of hers already, and it seemed to pull the bottom out of everything he attempted to do. Here they were planning to go back to their own country, and now she was sick again. He came to me so discouraged.

I remember turning to this incident in Mark and reciting this story, and saying to him, “Remember, the boat will not sink, and the storm will not last forever. That is having faith — to remember those facts.” He thanked me, we prayed together, and he left. I did not see him for a couple of months; then we ran into each other. I said, “How are things going? How is your wife?” He said, “Oh, not much better. She’s still having terrible struggles. She can’t breathe, and can’t take care of the children or the house, and we have a hard time. But I do remember two things: the boat will not sink, and the storm will not last forever!” So I prayed with him again.

Just a couple weeks ago I received a note from him. They had gone back to their country, and there they had found the answer. A doctor discovered a minor deficiency in her diet which needed to be remedied. When that was done, the asthma and bronchitis disappeared, and she was in glorious, radiant health, and they were rejoicing together. At the bottom of the page he had written, “The boat will not sink, and the storm will not last forever.”

As C. S. Lewis wrote,

I’ll tell you how to look at it. Haven’t you noticed how, in our own little war here on earth, there are different phases, and while any one phase is going on people get into the habit of thinking and behaving as if it were going to be permanent? But really the thing is changing under your hands all the time, and neither your assets nor your dangers are the same as the year before.

The significance of this event to us is that faith is the answer to fear — faith in the goodness and care of God in our lives, faith that he loves us and he is able to work in our midst. But there is still another lesson. It is that failure in faith is the doorway to greater vision. What happened here?

He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

The word translated “awe” means “fear,” but it is a different kind of fear than that which occurs earlier. Then it was cowardly fear; here it is that sense of deep respect which has awe at its heart. Thus out of the failure of their faith there came this deeper impression,  which filled them with a deep sense of awe: “Who can this be, that even wind and sea obey him, who controls all the elements of the natural world. Who then is this?” The wonderful thing about this incident is that even though the disciples flunked their examination of faith, the groundwork was laid for a new expression of faith the next time they were under test. Thus their own failure opened the possibility for a new expression of faith to come.

This is the way the Lord works in our life. He does this very same thing with us. He tests our faith all the time, in order that we might grow. And if our faith is strong enough we will see that he can handle the problem, that he knows how. But even if our faith is weak, he still will not let us collapse utterly. He will hold us up and see us through and, somehow in the process, lay the foundation of a new glimpse of his might and power which will enable our faith to grow stronger for the next time.

Let us turn now to the next incident, which follows immediately in Chapter 5:

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had come out of the boat, there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who lived among the tombs; and no one could bind him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been bound with fetters and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the fetters he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out, and bruising himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped him [i.e., knelt before him]; and crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me. ” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many. “And he begged him eagerly not to send them out of the country[to the abyss]. Now a great herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside; and they begged him, “Send us to the swine, let us enter them. ” So he gave them leave. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea. (Mark 5:1-13 RSV)

This incident opens before us again the whole realm of the occult and the demonic, and the oppression of mankind by these evil and unclean spirits. In this day we have seen ample demonstration of the actuality of these forces in our world and perhaps we are much more prepared to understand this story than we would have been ten years ago. In this account we have a very remarkable listing for us of the signs of “demon possession.”

I was interested to note that the New Testament never actually uses the term “demon possession.” It is a term which has been invented, but it may not be very accurate. The word in Scripture is always “demonized.” Whether it means possession or control or influence or whatever, this is the word which is used. We have read into it the idea of “demon possession.” Perhaps that is an accurate term; I am not prepared, at the moment at least, to say categorically that it is not. But I do not think it wise to use it, because it is not used in Scripture.

It is evident that there are various stages and degrees to which demons, evil spirits, can affect and possess or control human beings. In this incident we have an extreme case, and there are listed here some seven signs which indicate when demonic spirits are at work in the life of an individual. The first is the word “unclean”. There is always an element of the unclean present in demonic effect. Some moral or physical filth or pollution is evident. In this case, the man lived among the tombs, i.e., among the dead bodies in the limestone caves which lined the cliffs along the sea of Galilee where they placed their dead. You always find this element — the demonic living in the midst of dirt and squalor and rubbish, or evidencing moral pollution. It is no accident that the rise of satanism and occultism in these last few years has been coincident with the spread of pornography and obscenity in the media, in our movies and literature. These are always related. There is an uncleanness about these evil spirits. They love filth and obscenity and pollution.

The second sign evident here is the isolation in which this man lived. He had a home, and he had friends, because Jesus sent him back to both at the end of the story. But he chose to live by himself in utter segregation, away from humanity, cut off from them. In every case of demonic influence you find this attitude of withdrawal, a willingness to be separate physically or emotionally from other people.

Then there was the supernatural strength he exhibited. This is often the case. There are many instances today of people possessed or controlled by demons exercising unusual strength. This man had been bound with chains and fetters. But he had snapped the chains and torn off the fetters, and no one had the strength to subdue him — a remarkable demonstration of demonic power.

Another mark which is always present is a sense of torment. This man was tormented. At first, demonic influence can seem to be very alluring and seductive, very attractive and fascinating. But that is designed to lead one on until finally this torment sets in, the deep sense of restlessness which this man exhibited, wandering up and down the mountains, crying out in pain at the torment he felt within, bruising himself with stones — evidently in an attempt to drive out his inner torment. This is very characteristic of demonic influence.

Another element always present is the immediate recognition of the authority of Jesus. This man, when he saw Jesus, knew immediately who he was. He came running to him and called him by name, using the phrase demons always employ, “Son of the Most High God.” This is very revealing, because it is the highest name a nonbeliever can know or use to refer to God — “the Most High God.” It is used all through the Old Testament by members of the Gentile nations. Israel knew him as Jehovah — “Lord.” Everyone else knew him as El Elyon, “God Most High.” This is how the demons refer to him.

Then there is the duality or multiplicity of personality which is exhibited here. Notice Verse 9: “Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion, for we are many.'” And in Verse 10 the demoniac begged Jesus not to send them to the abyss. There is this awareness of at least a double personality, what psychologists call “schizophrenia.”

The last mark is that of suicidal tendencies, the destructiveness which is present in demonic influence. Not all suicidal tendencies come from this, but this is clearly a mark here. When the demons were cast out, they entered into the swine, and what did they do? All two thousand of them rushed down the mountainside and drowned in the sea. Thus the demons, who had asked to enter the swine in order not to go into the abyss, defeated their own purpose, and, because of the death of the swine, had to enter the abyss anyway. That is why Jesus gave them permission to enter into the swine. The death of the swine was a tremendous testimony to this man that he was indeed free from the demons that had inhabited him. But it was also the means by which these demons were sent into the abyss where they belonged.

Now we have the sequel to the story:

The herdsmen fled, and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus, and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told what happened to the demoniac and to the swine. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their neighborhood. (Mark 5:14-17 RSV)

What a strange reaction — and yet it is not so strange, is it? When these people heard the news several hours later, they came to see what had happened. By this time the man had gone home and clothed himself, had come back to Jesus, and was sitting at his feet, listening to him. They saw him sitting there at rest — this man who had been so restless — and clothed, prepared to enter society again, no longer withdrawn, afraid of people. And he was in his right mind — at peace with himself, no civil war raging within any longer. They saw this deliverance. It was evident to them that here was a man set free.

But they are hit in the most tender part of their anatomy — their pocketbook. And instead of rejoicing, they plead with Jesus to leave. Society is always doing this. We see it in our own day. Whenever there is a question of the welfare of an individual versus the wealth of the many, society invariably chooses the wealth of the many rather than the welfare of one.

Twenty-five years or more ago, I read a poem by John Oxenham based upon this incident in Scripture. I never memorized it all, but one stanza sticks in my memory. He put it very graphically. These people came to Jesus and said to him,

Rabbi, be gone! And take this fool of thine!
You love his soul; we prefer swine.

This is what humanity says so frequently. Well, the end of the story is that as Jesus, obeying this injunction to leave the neighborhood,

…was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. But he refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and all men marveled. (Mark 5:18b-20 RSV)

The Decapolis were ten Greek cities on the eastern side of the sea of Galilee, including Damascus. It was to this Gentile community that Jesus commanded this man to go and bear witness. Among the Jews, he told them not to say a word, lest he be overwhelmed by people mobbing him, making impossible an orderly ministry. But here among the Gentiles he sent this man back. What a beautiful pattern of witness he established! He told him to go home, and not to go around from door to door explaining the plan of salvation, but simply to tell his friends what happened to him. That is what a witness is. I am not against evangelizing, but we need to understand that witnessing and evangelizing are two different things.

This man was sent to be a witness, to tell people what had happened to him. And what a story he had to tell — of how he had lived in anguish and torment, how he had been against all of humanity, a menace to anyone who came by, angry and hostile and rebellious; and yet Jesus had freed him, given him peace and joy! No wonder that as he went about in all these cities, men marveled at what they heard. Now what is the significance of these two incidents in our lives?

Mark has put them together to help us to see that Jesus is Lord — whether the enemy that threatens us and frightens us is some circumstance or event outside us, as the storm was for the disciples, or whether that which betrays and subverts us and sabotages everything we try to do is something arising from within — some habit, some attitude, some long-standing hostility or resentment we bear against another, or even some demonic influence which is ripping us and tearing us apart, making us restless and discontent. Whatever it is, Jesus is Lord. This is the message of these stories. Within or without, he reigns now in our lives. Therefore his question to us throughout the coming year remains: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”


Lord Jesus, we thank you for your power over all the events of our lives, over all the forces which influence us. As we enter the new year, we thank you, Lord, that in the boat of this new year you are here with us to comfort and strengthen us, to reassure us, and to take us through whatever storms may come. We know you are not here to stop the storms from coming, but to take us through them. And we know that whatever forces arise from within us to distress or frighten us, you are able to handle them. And now may our spirits worship you, as we think of the greatness and glory of the One who has come to us, to be in us and among us. We thank you in your name, Amen.

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Jesus: From Boyhood to Manhood

A great article by my friend Dennis Hickman:

The Bible tells us very little about Jesus’ upbringing—his growing-up years.  Church traditions have given us paintings, stained glass windows and statues of Jesus as a child with a halo around his head, many times posing piously.

But is this the real Jesus as he grew up and matured?  Was he born a holy icon, knowing and understanding all things?  Was his life as a child (and adolescent) that much different from any other Jewish male living during the first century?  We read and know from Luke 2:41-52 that at the age of 12 Jesus had already so developed in his understanding of the Scriptures that the teachers of the law were amazed at him.  How did a preteen boy gain such understanding, confidence, and wisdom?  Was he simply born with it,  or did he mature into it?

We can glean some insight to Jesus’s development and learning from Scripture.  However, by examining the culture of that period and examining his surroundings, we can see a little bit of what helped shape Jesus’s thoughts, desires, commitment, and determination.

The Formative Years

We learn from Scripture that after the visit by the Magi when Jesus was about 1.5 to 2 years old[1], Joseph (Jesus’ stepfather) was warned in a dream by an angel of Yahweh to flee to Egypt because Herod the Great wanted the child dead.

Sometime after Herod the Great’s death in 1BC, Archelaus, his son, became king in Judea. After allowing some time to pass for Archelaus to solidify his reign, an angel of Yahweh appeared to Joseph in a second dream telling him it was okay to return to Israel.  Thus, Joseph, Mary, and the child Jesus returned to Israel and settled in their small, northern former home of Nazareth (Matthew 2:13-23).  Jesus would have been between 2.5 to 3.5 years old by this time. Luke records these events in a summary in Chapter 2:40 “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.”[2]

Nothing more is said about Jesus until he is 12 years of age.  What took place during those formative years?  Jesus was and still is human, after all; he did not issue forth from the womb with a halo around his head, having all of this great wisdom and understanding, mesmerizing everyone with his mysterious gaze as we see in the movies and paintings.  Luke tells us plainly that “the child grew and became strong and filled with wisdom”.  Some versions say “continued to grow”. What happens when children grow up?  They learn, experience life, develop their personality, habits, likes and dislikes and they mature. Furthermore, the child Jesus became strong (physically strong) and filled with wisdom.  This is a process that takes time, proper training and teaching.

R. C. H. Lenski says the following in The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel regarding Luke 2:40:

“The verbs are imperfect and denote continuance, and this includes also the participle.  We refer euxaneto physical growth and ekrataiouto to mental and spiritual increase in strength, for it would be superfluous to add a second verb to tell of the physical development and to leave only a participle for the mental and spiritual growth.  The Savior of the world…grew up physically in the most normal way…”

“He grew mentally in the same way and attained more and more strength of mind, understanding and reason.”

“The young lad attained more and more wisdom…in the Biblical sense as the right knowledge of God and his salvation coupled with its application to life.”[3]

Scripture tells us that Joseph was a righteous man (Matthew 1:19) and that Mary had found favor with God (Luke 1:28).  They both were of the house (lineage) of David.  They knew Torah and were faithful, believing Jews; why else would Yahweh have chosen them to raise, teach, and care for His only begotten Son?  Being faithful followers of Yahweh, they knew and followed God’s commandments, and now they had a son, the son of God, to raise.  What would Joseph and Mary have read in the Scriptures concerning the raising of children?

1“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that Yahweh your God commanded me to teach you, and you are to carry them out in the land to which you are crossing over to possess,  2so that you will fear Yahweh your God by keeping all his statutes and his commandments that I command you, you and your son and your son’s son, all the days of your life, and so that your days may be prolonged.  3Hear therefore, Israel, and be careful to do them, so that it may be well with you and so that you may increase greatly just as Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has promised to you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. 4“Hear, O Israel! Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone! 5Therefore you are to love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6These words that I command you this day are to be in your heart, 7and you are to repeat them over and over to your children and are to talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8You are to bind them for a sign on your hand, and they are to be for symbols between your eyes. 9You are to write them on the door posts of your house and on your gates.

– Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (REV)

In the Jewish culture, the parents were primarily responsible for the education of the children.  Although some education would come from the local Rabbi in classes and on Sabbaths in the Synagogue, it was mainly the responsibility of the parents.  The father was responsible for teaching his children Torah, but because of the normal activates of daily life (providing a living for his family), the mother performed much of the daily teaching.  She would teach basic Torah, morals, etiquette, discipline, and obedience.  The Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) was the first lesson to learn and memorize.

Mary and Joseph most certainly would have shared with Jesus some of the things that were said and prophesied about him.  Those things that were spoken by the Angel of God, Elizabeth, the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon and Anna (Matthew 1:20-21, 2:10-11, Luke 1:31-35, 41-45, 2:8-20, 25-35 & 36-38).  Scripture states in Luke 2:19 that Mary ‘treasured up all these things”.  The things Mary and Joseph would share with Jesus would be at the very foundation of his learning and development.

The father was also socially responsible to teach his son a trade, a means to support his future family.  Generally (and logically), that trade would be the one the father was most familiar with—his own (ex. Genesis 47:1-4).  He was also responsible to teach his children the importance of places and events.  He would explain how these had formed their lives and how God had worked with Israel throughout the ages so they could follow in the footsteps of their forefathers.

When we read that Jesus grew in “strength and wisdom”, these are not trite words.  Joseph was a builder (tekton)—not just a worker of wood, as wood was not the primary building material of choice.  He would have been adept in working with stone, mud bricks, and, yes, also wood, but possibly plaster and excavation as well.  He was a builder, a construction worker, and would have taught Jesus this art; thus, Jesus grew in strength.  This is not speaking of spiritual strength, it’s the word generally used of physical strength.  As a builder, Jesus experienced sore and strained muscles, scrapes, cuts and bruises, thirst, hunger, exhaustion, and long, grueling hours of physically and mentally challenging tasks.  This learning would serve him well in the future.

The family had settled in Nazareth, a small, quiet village just a few miles from the Roman Provincial capital Sepphoris, a booming cosmopolitan city very much in need of qualified and experienced builders.  As Joseph and Jesus would walk to Sepphoris and places in that area, it would be easy for Joseph to teach the young Jesus about the places within eyesight and about the events that took place there. Any loving Jewish father would have done this. Joseph knew who he was training—the Messiah was in his care.  I would imagine the conversations between Joseph and Jesus on their way to work were absolutely wonderful, exciting, and inspiring to Jesus.

Jesus would have also gone to Synagogue growing up.  We know this from the Gospel of Luke:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and as his custom was he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.

– Luke 4:16

Jesus was accustomed to going to the local synagogue.  He grew up there and likely learned from the local rabbi. A young Jewish boy would attend synagogue until the age of 12 or so for his elementary education. Reading the Scriptures and writing on wax tablets, studies in Torah, and Israelite history were all taught there.

There were also academies—institutions of higher learning—in Israel at the time, although most likely only in the largest cities.  It is safe to assume Jesus did not attend one as they were very expensive, and only the wealthiest of families could afford them.  We also see signs of this in Scripture; further on in Luke 4 the people present at the public opening of Jesus’s ministry were amazed that he could speak with such grace and expound the Scriptures with such authority.

And they all were giving a good testimony about him, and were amazed at the words of grace that proceeded out of his mouth, and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

– Luke 4:22

At the age of 12, Jesus is in the temple in Jerusalem speaking with the teachers of the law:

And it came to pass, after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

– Luke 2:46-47

The record in Luke 2 with Jesus at the Temple concludes with verse 52 “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.”

Here Lenski writes:

“Compare verse 40. “Wisdom” is placed first because Jesus at twelve already revealed its possession in a high degree; he kept attaining more and more of it.  We refer elikia to bodily stature, not to age, for it need not be said that he grew older.  Most of the pictures of Jesus are too weak.  He must have grown into a strong, impressive, commanding figure.  These pale, anemic, Christs ought to be abolished from our imagination. The sense of charis as it is explained in V. 40 is substantiated here, for it came to Jesus from men as well as from God. He stood in high favor with both.  The imperfect tense states that not only this progress continued but, as an open tense, that more is to follow. The three nouns are datives of relation.”[4]

Had he attended one of the academies, there would not have been any reason for their marveling at his grace, authority, understanding of Scripture or ability to ask and answer deep questions.

Another interesting point from the Gospel of Luke appears in verse 41:

And every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover.

– Luke 2:41

Jesus’s parents went to Jerusalem every year they were in Israel during Jesus’s upbringing.  But where was Jesus?  Mary and Joseph certainly would not have left him at home alone; he went with them, (as did presumably, his brothers and sisters).  Lenski writes very beautifully concerning this verse:

“During the childhood of Jesus Joseph and Mary regularly attended the Passover festival at Jerusalem.  Every male was originally expected to appear in Jerusalem at the Passover, at Pentecost and at Tabernacles, Exod.23:14-17; 34:23; Deut. 16:16; but the dispersion made this impossible.  Godly Jews, however, made it a point to attend at least the Passover.  Women were not required to attend, yet many did, nevertheless, and Mary belonged to this class.  We see the devoutness of the parents of Jesus, the kind of a home in which he grew up.”

Alfred Edersheim (in his work Sketches of Jewish Social Life) paints a picture of what it would be like for a child being at the Temple during one of the feasts:

“Surely no one who had ever worshipped within the courts of Jehovah’s house at Jerusalem could ever have forgotten the scenes he had witnessed, or the words he had heard. Standing in that gorgeous, glorious building, and looking up its terraced vista, the child would watch with solemn awe, not unmingled with wonderment, as the great throng of white-robed priests busily moved about, while the smoke of the sacrifice rose from the altar of burnt-offering. Then, amid the hushed silence of that vast multitude, they had all fallen down to worship at the time of incense. Again, on those steps that led up to the innermost sanctuary the priests had lifted their hands and spoken over the people the words of blessing; and then, while the drink-offering was poured out, the Levites’ chant of Psalms had risen and swelled into a mighty volume; the exquisite treble of the Levite children’s voices being sustained by the rich round notes of the men, and accompanied by instrumental music. The Jewish child knew many of these words. They had been the earliest songs he had heard—almost his first lesson when clinging as a “taph” to his mother. But now, in those white-marbled, gold-adorned halls, under heaven’s blue canopy, and with such surroundings,

they would fall upon his ear like sounds from another world, to which the prolonged threefold blasts from the silver trumpets of the priests would seem to waken him. And they were sounds from another world; for, as his father would tell him, all that he saw was after the exact pattern of heavenly things which God had shown to Moses on Mount Sinai; all that he heard was God-uttered, spoken by Jehovah Himself through the mouth of His servant David, and of the other sweet singers of Israel. Nay, that place and that house were God chosen; and in the thick darkness of the Most Holy Place—there afar off, where the high priest himself entered on one day of the year only, and in simple pure white vesture, not in those splendid golden garments in which he was ordinarily arrayed—had once stood the ark, with the veritable tables of the law, hewn and graven by the very hand of God; and between the cherubim had then throned in the cloud the visible presence of Jehovah. Verily this Temple with its services was heaven upon earth!”[5]

As Jesus grew and matured, each visit to Jerusalem and the Temple would have increased in significance.  By the age of 12 he had been to the Temple some eight or nine times, each visit making a greater impression on his heart until at the age of 12 he desired to be there, in his Father’s house; and to be, (as the KJV translates it), “about (his) Father’s business”.  It would not be too many years until Jesus would enter the Temple again and drive out the coin dealers and their sub-standard sacrificial animals (John 2:13-17).  The zeal for his Father’s house did indeed consume him.

So where did Jesus gain all of this knowledge, grace, and wisdom?  His parents?  Most definitely.  His local Rabbi?  Probably?  His study of the Scriptures and the guidance from his heavenly Father?  Absolutely!

We also can see in Luke 4 that he knew the Book of Isaiah well enough that he could quickly find where it was written:

17And he was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. And he unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, he has sent me to declare liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are bruised,  19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

– Luke 4:17-19

We would call this citing of Scripture “a reading of Isaiah 61: 1-2”, but in Jesus’ time there were no chapters or verse numbers, punctuation or paragraphs—not even breaks between the Hebrew words.  These were all added later to the modern Bible in the 16th and 17th centuries AD.  In addition, the scroll of Isaiah found in the tombs of Qumran measures approximately 24 feet long.  A person would need a great working knowledge of the scroll to quickly unroll it and find “the place where it was written”.  So did Jesus have access to the scrolls and did he study them with fervor? Yes, he did!

A Knowledge of Locations

What were some of the locations visible to Jesus while he grew up in Nazareth?  The town sat atop a hill on the north edge of the Jezreel valley, inside which stood the famous city of Jezreel in the tribal area of Issachar. The wicked King Ahab (possibly the most wicked King to have ever reigned in Israel) and Queen Jezebel (a worshiper of Baal) had a large palace in the city of Jezreel.  It was in this city that Jezebel framed Naboth and had him killed in order to claim ownership of Naboth’s vineyard, after which Yahweh sent Elijah to curse Ahab and Jezebel; it was also at Jezreel where the curse came to pass by the hands of Jehu, a righteous King (1 Kings 21:1-29, 2 Kings 9:30-37).

From these places, Jesus would have learned the importance of obeying God and keeping His commandments from the examples of the righteous and unrighteous Kings of Israel and what blessing or cursing followed them.  Jesus knew from Scripture that he would one day be King and sit on the throne of David.  Yahweh, his Father, had provided him with the records of the Kings of Israel to teach him how to rule and how not to.

Many years later Paul would write,

For whatever was written previously was written to teach us, that through perseverance and through the encouragement of the scriptures we would have hope.

– Romans 15:4

This is true for you and I, and it’s also a timeless truth.  The things written in the Old Testament were written for all to learn from, especially Jesus as he was growing up, maturing, and preparing for his ministry.  The examples written in Scripture and on the very soil of the places he could see daily taught the lesson of persevering under pressure and encouraged him to keep his mind and heart focused on his hope—that of being King over the entire world in the millennial kingdom (Isaiah 9:1-7 & Luke 1:32-33) and saving his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

The entire area around Nazareth was filled with places where Joshua (who shared the same name as Jesus) defeated many of the 31 evil Kings while conquering the Promised Land (Joshua 12:7-24).  Jesus would have witnessed many camel caravans coming from the North and East traveling along The Great Trunk Road, or Via Maris, through the valley of Jezreel on their way to the ports in Caesarea Marittima or down to the markets of Jerusalem, or on to Egypt.  These caravans would have looked like a small army of men and beasts moving as one toward their objective.  From this Jesus would have likely been reminded of Joshua’s leadership, his victories leading God’s people to and through the Promised Land, just as Jesus would do for all who believed in him.

To the northeast, Jesus could see the highest peaks of Mount Hermon where Baal worship once thrived, near the area (Bashan) where King Og of the Amorites was defeated by Moses and the Israelites.  20 miles south of the mountain were the ruins of the old city of Dan, where the tribe of Dan had moved after deciding they did not want to fight the Philistines in the area given to them by Joshua (Judges 18).  This decision proved to be deleterious for Dan as they became the first line of defense against every army invading from the north and northeast.  Jesus could easily see how Dan’s decision was in conflict with God’s promise (compare Joshua 1:1-9 with Joshua 19:40-48 & Judges 1:34).  He learned that decisions and actions have consequences—some good, some bad.  This shows up numerous times in the parables Jesus taught.

About four miles directly east of Nazareth stands Mount Tabor, where Deborah summoned Barak and an army of 10,000 to defeat Jabin, the King of Canaan (Judges 4).   Just to the southeast of Mount Tabor is Mount Moreh, where an army of Midianites 135,000 strong were encamped, near its northern slope. Within eyesight to the southeast of Mount Moreh stands Mount Gilboa, at the base of which Gideon assembled an army at Ein Harod to attack the Midianites.  God whittled Gideon’s force down to 300 fighting men before Gideon took them across the Jezreel valley to rout the Midianites (Judges 6:33-7:25).  From this, Jesus learned that righteous judgement leads to deliverance and blessings for God’s people (John 8:1-11).

Mount Gilboa was also the site of King Saul’s death, a tragic end of a once good King. The Philistines defeated Saul’s army after Saul sought guidance from a spirit medium at Endor, an enemy of God.  As a result, all three of Saul’s sons were killed and Saul was mortally wounded and impaled himself on his sword.  The Philistines found their bodies on Mount Gilboa and took them to Beth-Shean a few miles to the northeast, where they hung their bodies for public display.  (1 Samuel 28:3-25, 1 Samuel 31:1-13).  Beth-Shean would have brought to Jesus’ mind the valor, compassion, and reverence of the men of Jabesh Gilead who retrieved the bodies of Saul and his sons, in peril of their own lives, and disposed of them properly and reverently (1 Samuel 11:1-10, 31:11-13).  These same qualities become manifested in Jesus’s life and ministry in so many places in the Gospels (Luke 22:49-51, Matthew 23:37-39, Luke 7:36-50).

Almost directly across the Jezreel valley from Nazareth are the ruins of Tel Megiddo. It was once a fortified major city of the Canaanites, but after Joshua allocated it to the tribe of Manasseh, the Israelites failed to drive the Canaanites from Megiddo.  It sits strategically at a pass in the Carmel mountain range where the main eastern trade route to Egypt, the Via Maris, runs. At Megiddo, Ahaziah, King of Judah, who followed the ways of Ahab and Jezebel, died at the hand of Jehu (2 Kings 9:14-29).

Jesus could have easily taken day hikes (and probably did) to most all of these locations where he might meditate on the Scriptures recalling the events that had taken place there.

To the west, Jesus could see the mountain range called Mount Carmel.  Here stood another Canaanite city, the city of Carmel, that Joshua conquered.  But one of the most famous records about Mount Carmel is that of the prophet Elijah defeating the 450 false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:19-42).  Jesus learned from the powerful life and office of the prophet Elijah; he also saw Yahweh’s sense of humor, one example of which can be found in verse 27 of the record. ”It came to pass at noon that Elijah mocked them, and said, “Shout loudly, for he is a god. Either he is deep in thought, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.””  Later in Jesus’s ministry one can see between the lines and in the setting Jesus’s sense of humor in records like when Peter and others were tired of waiting for Jesus to appear and decided to go fishing (John 21:1-23).  And what an example Elijah must have been to an adolescent Jesus of what a true prophet of Yahweh is walking and speaking with power and boldness even in the face of what appears insurmountable odds. Jesus would do very similar in his ministry (Luke 4:16-30, 4:31-37, 7:11-17, 8:26-56).

Jesus was not a robot or a child running around with a halo over his head.  He was a real boy doing real things in real time.  He had loving parents (3 in fact) who loved him greatly and taught him everything they could; he was well-respected in his community and synagogue; he learned from Scripture and from his surroundings the history of God’s people Israel and about God’s overall plan for His creation.  He learned what a true King, a true Judge, and a true prophet should be; he learned what his father Yahweh expected from the Messiah so well that God reported at the baptism of Jesus in Mark 1:11b:

“You are my Son, the beloved, in you I am well pleased.”

And again on Mount Hermon at the transfiguration in Matthew 17:5b:

“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

If we are going to truly fellowship with Jesus, our Lord and Redeemer (as the apostle John says is the goal in 1 John 1:1-4), then we need to know him as he truly was and is: a man, the only begotten Son of God, and human just like us yet without sin; a man of joy and sorrows, laughter and pain, who learned in the same ways we do.  Yet by his faithfulness and determination was the Messiah whom God made both “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

He was not born this way.  He earned it.  And he earned the obedient following of those who believe. We should listen to him.

Map from BibleWorks/maps/Moody Bible Atlas/Map Index/Map #10 “The Jezreel Valley”

Additional Reading:

HOW OLD WERE CHRIST’S DISCIPLES?  By: OTIS AND FRANK CARY.   Available for download at: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/475815

Early Hebrew education and its significance for present-day educational theory and practice by: S. Schoeman. Available for download at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271315861_Early_Hebrew_education_and_its_significance_for_present-day_educational_theory_and_practice

All citing of Scripture are from The Revised English Version available online at https://www.revisedenglishversion.com/

The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. two/”Education”

Sketches in Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ, by Alfred Edersheim

[1] Ernest L Martin., The Star That Astonished The World

[2] See REV Bible Commentary on Luke 2:39-40 (https://www.revisedenglishversion.com/Luke/chapter2/39)

[3] R.C.H Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, pgs. 159-161

[4] ibid, pg 170.

[5] Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, Chapter 7, pg. 62

Courtesy of https://www.truthortradition.com/articles/jesus-from-boyhood-to-manhood

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