Category Archives: Faith

Jesus’ Radical Teachings can Transform the World

Does the world appear increasingly turbulent these days, with our planet on the precipice of collapse? Witness the geopolitical storms raging across the Middle East and building in Europe and Asia, while the United States remains locked in unprecedented partisan gridlock – threatening our long-term viability. Widening economic disparity, burgeoning social injustice, and radical worldviews have sparked protest and fueled hatred across the globe, quickly spreading like some sociological virus. Volatile stock markets, brazen violence and climate change plague our nation domestically, while scarcer resources, government instability and accelerating terrorism threaten the global community.

In such a cauldron of chaos perhaps it’s no surprise so many fear for the future and raise legitimate questions in the face of these escalating troubles. How do we stem the tides of violence, abject poverty, income inequality, hatred, and abuse? What can we do to confront the ideological radicalism flourishing across the globe and spawning a growing number of terrorists outside the Middle East? How can we eradicate the epidemic of exploitation, injustice, and sociopolitical tyranny dominating our educational, governmental, and commercial institutions? Where can we turn for guidance in resolving the problems crippling our country and threatening to destroy it from within and abroad?

For answers, we need look no further than the teachings of Jesus. His iconoclastic message remains as relevant today as it did two thousand years ago and possesses the power to transform societies. The profundity of His message, however, is not imposed at the tip of a spear or the barrel of a gun. Instead, Christians model it by embracing the difficult and revolutionary ideas He taught two millennia ago – which much of the world still considers foolish and weak. But it is a message that has the power to turn the world upside down. Consider three lessons from His ministry.

Love your enemy. Jesus initiated His ministry with an extensive mountaintop sermon in which He commanded His followers: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, NKJV). What a remarkable contrast to the message taught by ISIS terrorists, urban gangs, and elements of American pop culture. Those sources demand retaliation against anyone who insults, subverts, humiliates, or disrespects them or their worldview. They insist on exercising swift and severe vengeance on the offending party – harm, kill, or destroy, it doesn’t matter, as long as retribution occurs.

Jesus challenges His disciples to adopt an entirely different posture when cursed, hated, persecuted, or exploited. We are to love, bless, pray, and do good to anyone who treats us so shamefully. Is He serious? Does He really expect us to treat well those who harm us – to bless them, lift them up in prayer, and shower them with love? Yes, that radical response is exactly what He wants from us. For that is where the power of God resides. That power not only transforms us to look more like Him, it ultimately defeats the power of hate, violence, bitterness, and abuse.

How might Jesus’ command affect your behavior today? Instead of cursing and engaging in road rage when a driver cuts you off, smile and wave politely. Instead of harboring resentment and plotting the downfall of a colleague who has taken credit for your work, pray for her success instead. Instead of directing a flurry of snide remarks, engaging in gossip, or holding a grudge against someone who treats you with contempt or intentionally humiliates you in front of others, compliment them publically and identify opportunities to help them. Though it sounds counter-intuitive, real power lies in such acts of love, mercy, and forgiveness.

Serve others. The mother of two of Jesus’ disciples requests her sons be seated at His left and right hands when He ushers in His kingdom. In response, Jesus says: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28, NKJV).

Again, the contrast could not be starker with what the world teaches. Every civilization shares a common set of expectations for great people. They rule over others, they exercise power, and they are served. They are easily identified in every community, industry, and geography. They command respect, demand fidelity, and reprimand the insubordinate. They are politicians, executives, entertainers, professors, the rich and the powerful. The world operates the way it does because these men and women operate the way they do.

Jesus rejects that worldview and institutes a new paradigm for His followers. Those who want greatness must serve others. If you want to be first in His kingdom you need to submit to Him and operate as a slave. As believers a servant’s mentality ought to define our interaction with others (great and small). That may sound crazy. You might consider it a ridiculous and radical view. And indeed it is. But it also represents the expectations Jesus has for those who love Him. Such behavior sends a clear and resounding message to society: The kingdom of God operates on an entirely different set of principles than those employed by the world.

Do you want to be great in God’s eyes? Then identify an opportunity or two (or three) to serve someone every day. Don’t limit your service to friends and loved ones. Serve strangers, the marginalized, the hurting, and the desperate as well. You may find it embarrassing at first because serving others often requires considerable humility, especially when serving the less fortunate, the mentally ill, and those that society deems losers. The more society esteems you the harder this will be. But it is what the Lord expects. It is best to begin making it your practice today.

Die to live. Perhaps the most counter-culture of all Jesus’ teachings it might also be the most powerful. Outlining what it means to follow Him, Jesus declares: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity” (John 12:24-25, NLT). We never really live until we die – not a physical death but a metaphorical death to ourselves. We lay our hopes, dreams, interests, career, and plans at His feet and commit our lives fully to Him – submitting to His call the entirety of our lives. It is in death, Jesus informs us, that we bear spiritual fruit and maximize our impact for His kingdom.

He calls us to sacrifice our lives for others even as He sacrificed His life for us. In our symbolic death we are liberated from the heavy burden of societal and family expectations and are freed from the greed, pride, selfishness, and desires that drive our dreams and influence our choices. Instead, we embrace a spirit of generosity, sacrifice, humility, and service. As we do we become more like Christ and less entangled in the concerns and temptations of this world, allowing us to make a difference in the world.

What are some examples? Consider the following: moving to global hotspots as an ambassador for Christ to shine His light into communities consumed with darkness; switching careers to work with non-profit agencies to address suffering in developing countries; spending vacations serving others on a mission trip; downsizing our lifestyles to funnel more of our income to ministries that share the Good News with others. Those are just a few but there are thousands more.

Many considered Jesus’ teachings radical and revolutionary in His day. Why would any sane person willingly love his or her enemy, serve others, and die to self? Two thousand years later society continues to describe Jesus’ teaching in similar terms because it contrasts so dramatically with the foundational principles of the world. Moreover, the lifestyle He calls us to live exposes the weakness of the world’s ideology that produces so much turmoil, violence, hopelessness, and exploitation.

Let’s show the world a better way, the way of Christ. Let’s demonstrate true greatness by serving others. Let’s respond to hate, violence and mistreatment with love, kindness, and forgiveness, and offer others a glimpse into heaven. And let’s die to self to show the world what Jesus looks like. What better way to honor our Savior?

Church, Culture & A Nation’s Decline.

A growing tendency exists in the Christian community to assign blame for our country’s condition on a culture we view as increasingly wicked and immoral. From nationally recognized Christians who speak for millions to religious politicians seeking to galvanize voter support, from pastors preaching to congregations to individual Christians posting on social media accounts, there is more agreement than ever that society-at-large is responsible for the deteriorating state of our nation. These voices insist that the eventual collapse of our country will occur because society has turned its’ back on God and chosen to chase sin instead.

While this message enjoys broad support in evangelical and conservative Christian circles and finds an enthusiastic and receptive audience on talk radio, at conservative political events, and in many Christian churches, it suffers several serious flaws that ought to concern us as believers. First, it ignores any culpability of the church for the nation’s condition. Second, the message disregards relevant biblical truths that reveal the proper role the church plays in transforming culture. Third, it reinforces secular society’s perception that the church excels at pointing fingers and is filled with self-righteous hypocrites. Finally, it buttresses the misperception that publically castigating society is an effective strategy for igniting spiritual change.

I think one reason attacks on secular society’s escalating immorality are so popular is because it places the blame and focus on them, not us. If they did not reject God our nation would be better off. If they sinned less we would enjoy more of God’s blessings. If they were Christians like us everything would be grand. Implicit in this thinking is that society bears full responsibility for our nation’s moral descent and approaching moral bankruptcy. We (the church and churchgoers) are blameless. Our faith absolves us from culpability. Consequently, we need not examine our lives for ungodly behavior or ask God to reveal our hidden sins.

Unfortunately, such reasoning does not confirm our holiness or proximity to God. It simply fuels our spiritual pride. We convince ourselves that Christians are the only thing delaying God’s immediate judgment on the nation, not His grace or mercy. Such arrogance on our part does as much to separate the nation from God as the decadence of society. God hates vanity as much as any other sin. We would do well to remember Jesus’ advice to His followers.

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:13-16, NLT).

Notice two important truths in that passage. First, we are called to live in a manner that glorifies Christ and offers a visual contrast to the lifestyle embraced by the world. God uses lives of humility, service, love, forgiveness, and godliness to draw others to Him, as they witness our behavior over time. He calls us to live as lights on the hill and salt in the culture, not as bullhorns incessantly informing society how bad it is.

Second, Jesus tells us that if salt loses its flavor it is worthless and will be discarded. A society awash in sin, then, says as much about us as believers as it does about the culture. We are losing our flavor, our light is dimming, and we are at risk of being trampled underfoot as worthless. But instead of falling on our knees before the Lord, repenting, seeking forgiveness, and asking Him to remove the sin from our lives, we choose to yell at society, disparage its’ immorality, and place on its shoulders the blame for our country’s condition. Why won’t we awake to our own sin and confess our role in weakening the moral foundation of the nation? For the same reason society refuses to accept its role or confess its sin: Pride.

That’s why we affect so little change when we point our collective church finger at society and issue accusations. It looks at us and laughs derisively. It knows the Bible well enough to know that Jesus did not take that approach to reform Israel. Instead, He invested His life serving others, loving the marginalized, discipling a handful of followers, and praying throughout the night on a regular basis. As a result, His life did more than change Israel it transformed the world. Once we embrace the radical, sacrificial lifestyle of Jesus, society will sit up and take notice. And we won’t have to shout a single word to get their attention.

While the church may find this message uncomfortable and challenging, I hope many view it as encouraging and hopeful as well. It is intended to awaken believers so we might be used of God to stir society. Sadly, if experience is any indication, many Christians will respond in a manner that mirrors society’s response to public rebukes from Christian leaders. They will take umbrage, disagree, and insist it is only an opinion (and a lousy one at that).

But if we are serious about bringing revival to this country and genuinely want to see our nation adopt God’s standards, we need to avoid shouting at society and casting it as the villain responsible for our condition (remember, the only yelling Jesus did was directed at religious leaders he described as hypocrites). Let’s instead consider the challenges above, examine our hearts, and do a better job following Jesus’ example. Once we allow God to turn our lives upside-down, we’ll be in position for Him to use us to do the same with our nation. And that’s something we can all get excited about!

America’s Least Favorite Bible Verse.

Many things divide our nation. Political affiliations separate us into segments of blue and red, depending on whether we support Democrats or Republicans. Professional and college sports fuel rivalries between fans of different teams. Wealth separates us by zip code and neighborhood depending on where we can afford to live. Religion sends us in different directions on weekends to worship whatever God we follow, if any at all. Issues of national importance often are viewed through the lens of race, gender, education, and age, frequently tearing us apart instead of bringing us together. Of course, not all differences are divisive and most are reflective of the healthy melting pot America represents.

One commonality, however, unifies our nation almost universally – in large cities and rural communities, across religions, races, and age groups, among political parties, and within most neighborhoods whether rich or poor. That unifying theme is a love for the world and the things in it. We may disagree on what aspects of the world we love or how we manifest that love but nearly all of us love it deeply. Evidence of this truth is all around us, in how we spend our time and how we invest our income. Some examples might prove helpful.

We love entertainment. From YouTube to Netflix, music to television, sporting contests to cultural events, video games to social media, we cannot get enough entertainment. While the genre and medium vary considerably, our thirst (perhaps lust) for entertainment appears insatiable.

We love stuff. While the stuff we love and the brands we buy differ dramatically between individuals, Americans love acquiring the things of this world. And it’s not enough just to collect stuff; we want the best, most popular, and coolest brands: Apple, Givenchy, Beats, Mercedes, Breitling, Neiman Marcus, and Hermès. We insist these are not luxuries but simply a part of being a real American. Laptops, i-pads, cell-phones, chic cars, large-screen televisions, double lattes, and six-dozen pairs of shoes are necessities. And the more we acquire, the more we realize that we require more necessities.

We love pampering. Our definitions may vary but we love being ensconced in luxury. Spa treatments, pedicures, and deep tissue massages to forget the rigors of work. Resort vacations to alleviate stress. Patronizing those businesses that make us feel special and understand our need for comfort. We gravitate to retailers, merchants, and brands that recognize our importance and meet our physical, emotional, and psychological needs.

I could go on but you get the picture. More than ever, a love for the world and all it offers unites us as a nation and represents the American dream. It probably sounds crass and we may resist that truth but the evidence is overwhelming. We love the world and the things of the world.

This may not sound at all troubling to most Americans who probably agree with the above assertions and might even celebrate them. Heck, yeah, we love entertainment, stuff, and pampering. But who cares? Indeed, for secularists and those of other faiths, a love for the world is nothing to be concerned about.

But for those who claim to follow Christ, it is a topic of grave concern – or at least it ought to be. Scripture addresses the issue on numerous occasions and we would do well to reflect on relevant verses, to understand God’s perspective. Perhaps the clearest and most compelling passage comes from the apostle John. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17, NKJV).

John leaves no room for ambiguity. Do not love the world or the things of the world. Simple and straightforward, right? Yet on reading that verse many Christians reject it (‘I don’t agree with what it says’), dismiss it as legalistic (‘I am free in Christ to do whatever I want, which means I can love the world and the things in it’), or insist they already adhere to John’s advice irrespective of how they live (‘I don’t love the world or the things in it. End of discussion.’).

Still, many believers who claim to prioritize their faith and take it seriously have little interest in understanding and applying the truth of this passage. Why? Because it discomforts us and requires wholesale changes in our lives. It is a very disruptive verse that, if followed, will radically alter how we spend our time and invest our resources. And let’s be honest, most of us have no desire for radical alterations to our lives. So we ignore or reject the truth embedded in that passage.

Perhaps the most disingenuous response, though, comes from believers who contend they have no love for the world or the things in it. Despite drowning in a sea of stuff, entrenched in entertainment activities, and living in the lap of luxury (by global standards where abject poverty thrives), they refuse to admit the truth. They are so deeply in love with the world that they have convinced themselves otherwise to avoid having to undergo a lifestyle transformation consistent with John’s verses.

So why does God wants us to avoid loving the world, its’ pleasures, and the things in it? Does He simply want us to live an ascetic life so we are miserable? Does He want His followers to suffer while the rest of the world enjoys lives filled with fun and indulgence? Not at all. He calls us to avoid falling in love with the world for two reasons. First, the world distracts us from following Him. When we fall in love with the things of this world, they take God’s rightful place in our hearts and minds. We focus on serving ourselves and pursuing our interests instead of serving the Lord and pursuing His plan.

Second, a love for the world consumes the focus, time, and resources that properly belong to God. When we resist the temptation to love the world we are set free to love God fully. Jesus explained it like this, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24, NLT).

Sadly, many of us believe we can serve God and the world simultaneously. Or we believe we can love the world and all it offers while pretending and claiming to love and serve God. But Jesus makes clear that such an arrangement is not possible. To avoid any confusion, He outlines a very simple litmus test for identifying our one true love. “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21, NLT).

So ask yourself: ‘Where is my treasure?’ How do you spend most of your free time? Where do you invest the majority of your financial resources? In the things of the world or in the kingdom of God? Your answer reveals your real love. If you don’t know how to answer, look at the evidence around you. It is probably overwhelming.

Three Verses that Bible Literalists Ignore.

A significant number of Christians, especially in the Evangelical community, embrace a literal interpretation of the Bible. They believe God means exactly what His Word says and refuse to entertain any idea that some passages in Scripture employ literary devices such as metaphors, hyperbole, and allegories. Convinced of their position, they demand church doctrine align with a literal view; all other perspectives are heresy.

For example, literalists read Genesis and insist that God created the world in six 24-hour days. They read Revelation and contend that exactly one-third of the grass is burned (and not a blade more) when the first trumpet sounds, exactly two hundred million soldiers are saddled at the River Euphrates (and not one less) when the sixth trumpet sounds, and exactly a quarter of mankind is killed with the opening of the fourth seal (no more and no less). For them, orthodoxy requires rigid adherence to every dotted ‘i’ and crossed ‘t’.

Curiously, Bible literalists often ignore other Bible passages where a literal interpretation inconveniences them or disrupts their lifestyle. They employ a literal view of Scripture on an inconsistent basis. Let’s look at three such passages often disregarded by Bible literalists.

Jesus tells his followers, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed because they cannot repay you, for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14, NKJV).

The literal interpretation of this verse is quite clear. Yet, I wonder how many of those who claim to follow the Bible literally have obeyed this verse? How many have invited the homeless, destitute, and diseased into their homes and celebrated with a dinner party, social event, or celebration? We can all come up with excuses for why we don’t. It’s too dangerous. They’ll steal my stuff. No poor or homeless people live near me. They smell bad and behave boorishly. But Jesus doesn’t condition our obedience on convenience or safety. If you follow the Bible literally, then the next dinner or social event you host should include lots of strangers marginalized by society, not friends and family.

Some will argue that their church sponsors something similar during Thanksgiving, inviting the homeless and poor into the fellowship hall for a meal. Others will explain that they visit a homeless shelter once a month to help serve meals. And that’s all well and good, but it does not represent a literal application of Scripture. Those who claim to believe the Bible literally must invite “the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind” into their home the next time they host a social or family event. That’s literally what Jesus taught.

On another occasion Jesus told His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24, NKJV). The literal interpretation is clear. It is difficult for the rich to enter heaven. That’s a very straightforward and easy to understand message. Yet, I wonder how many Bible literalists strive to be rich, or are rich? If your goal is to spend eternity with Jesus why make things hard on yourself by being rich?

I’ve heard this passage taught dozens of times by pastors and church leaders across the country. Curiously, the focus is almost always on what Jesus isn’t saying rather than on what he is. Ministers tell their congregations that Jesus isn’t telling us it’s wrong to be rich. He isn’t telling us that wealth is bad. He isn’t telling us that no one who is wealthy can make it into heaven. And so on, and so on. They want their flocks to understand that they can continue living prosperous lives of comfort, luxury, and excess and still experience eternity with Christ. They use the passage to teach the exact opposite message of what Jesus is communicating to His followers: Quit wasting your time pursuing wealth and the things of this world. Why? Because those who do become distracted from following Him and their faith never blossoms. Anyone serious about following Scripture literally will have a much different understanding and application of this passage than what we hear from the majority of pulpits on Sunday. Jesus’ words could not be clearer. Literally.

Finally, Jesus also informed His disciples, “You will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22, NKJV). Too often we hear that following Jesus will make things easier in life. Jesus rebukes that nonsense here and explains that things will actually get tougher. People will hate us for no other reason than our love for Him. To experience salvation, though, we must endure to the end. It is not enough to make a profession of faith and then succumb to the temptations of the world or renounce our faith in the face of persecution. Jesus declared we must endure. Only then will we enjoy eternity with Him. Too often we hear that as long as someone professes faith in Christ, he or she is guaranteed eternal salvation. But that is not what Jesus teaches here, or in any other passage. If we really believe the inerrancy and literal interpretation of the Bible, we must recognize that God calls us to remain faithful until the end.

Sadly, few Christians embrace the literal (and intended) interpretation of the above passages. Instead, most of us perform all sorts of intellectual gyrations to avoid arriving at the application Jesus intended when He taught His disciples these truths. Surprisingly, even Bible literalists reject the literal (and obvious) message of Jesus’ teachings because doing so will burden or inconvenience them. It will force them to live lives they have no interest in living and follow a faith they cannot reconcile with their current lifestyles. So to ensure their doctrinal purity they proclaim themselves defenders of Bible truth and insist on a literal interpretation of the Bible – but only when it’s an intellectual exercise that doesn’t disrupt their daily routine. But that’s not Bible literalism, that’s hypocrisy.

I’m not suggesting a literal interpretation of Scripture is wrong. Generally, I take that approach myself, except when it is clear a literary device is being used. However, when Bible literalists apply their rigid interpretation only to verses that require nothing more than intellectual assent and refuse to apply it to verses that inconvenience, discomfort, or disrupt their lives and lifestyle, then that is not only wrong, it is dangerous duplicity. And that could cost them in the end.

Faith Lessons from the NFL.

With the NFL Conference Championships now concluded and the Super Bowl only a week away, what an appropriate time to explore what Christians can learn from the NFL, in particular the Seattle Seahawks historical comeback against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday. While any comparison between sport and faith is tenuous, the dramatic outcome of that game represents an ideal metaphor for understanding several truths from Scripture. Here are three important spiritual lessons gleaned from that memorable game.

1] For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required. Jesus spoke these words about faithful stewards in a parable to His disciples (see Luke 12:48). In football, those players in whom the team invests the most resources (largest contract) ought to have the biggest impact on the game. In Sunday’s match-up Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay quarterback with the biggest team contract, was expected to be the playmaker who delivered a victory for his team. Instead, his lackluster performance contributed more to the team’s loss than any Packers player, evidenced by the abysmal six points off of five defensive turnovers.

Similarly, those believers whom God has given the most are expected to faithfully steward those resources for His Kingdom. Sadly, this truth has been lost on many of us – corporately as a church and individually as believers. Blessed with incredible wealth the church regularly chooses to direct a vast majority of God’s resources on beautiful buildings and programs that often have a tangential relationship to the gospel, all the while neglecting the biggest need of all: taking the gospel to the entire world. Most churches spend less than ten percent on global ministries and bringing the Good News to people who have never heard of Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy.

Not surprisingly, many churchgoers adopt this model in their own lives and with their own resources, refusing to tithe or giving very little as a percentage of their income. Like the church, they direct nearly all their income on themselves, acquiring more and nicer stuff, and pampering themselves with luxury and comfort. That mindset has infected the church so severely it is destroying it from within and is representative of the unwise and unfaithful steward. We would do well to reevaluate how we employ God’s resources and make sure we use them to proclaim His message of hope, love, and forgiveness locally and abroad.

2] Everyone plays a role, so be ready. The play that turned everything around for the Seahawks was a fake field goal in the fourth quarter. The placeholder scrambled to his left and floated a wobbly pass twenty yards downfield to a wide-open third-string tight end who had not caught a pass all year. The two players perhaps least likely to connect on a passing touchdown had a tremendous impact on the game. Without them executing that play the comeback never begins.

Similarly, God has a plan for each of us no matter how insignificant we seem. He wants us involved in His game plan not sitting on the sidelines offering excuses for why we are not impacting the world. Are you sitting on the bench with regards to your faith? Do you remain silent about your faith when talking with friends, family, and work colleagues? Are you disengaged from sharing God’s love with the marginalized, destitute, and haters in your community? It’s time to get in the game and make a difference. Paul tells us to be prepared at all times to share the gospel with others (2 Tim 4:2). Are you prepared? Do you act on that preparation? You need not be a pastor, eloquent speaker, admired author, or engaging extrovert to have a substantive impact for Christ and His Kingdom. You need only have a servant’s heart, a willing spirit, and an authentic love for the Lord. Ask Him to reveal opportunities to serve, love, and teach others in His name. He’ll answer your prayer and soon you’ll be making a real contribution.

3] Don’t presume the outcome. This is, perhaps, the most critical lesson of all. With less than three minutes to play in the game nearly every Packers fan believed their team was headed to the Super Bowl. They led by twelve points, which meant the Seahawks needed to score two touchdowns in a game in which it had only managed one touchdown over the first fifty-seven minutes. Fans were probably already booking flights and making hotel reservations so they could see the Super Bowl in person two weeks later. After all, what could go wrong? Well, as Packers fans soon learned, just about everything could, and did, go wrong. The Seahawks pulled off arguably the most impressive last-minute comeback in NFL playoff history and defeated the Packers in overtime. Green Bay fans were devastated. How could something so certain end in such misery? Fortunately, their emotional turmoil will subside as life goes on.

Jesus informed His followers of a similar scenario playing out on the day of His second coming. He explained that many who claim they are Christians and profess Him as Lord will not join Him in heaven (see Matthew 7:21-23). This will come as an unbelievable shock to them. They will protest vigorously and insist He reconsider, reminding Him of all they have done to deserve heaven. However, the absence of a personal, robust, and healthy relationship with Him prevents them from enjoying eternity in heaven. Like Packers fans from last weekend, these men and women are devastated. They, too, were certain of the outcome – that they would spend eternity in heaven. Like Packers fans, they were wrong. Unlike Packers fans, their turmoil does not subside and life does not go on.

Are you a Christian? Do you consider Jesus, Lord? If so, take time to study the Bible regularly and understand His expectations for those who follow Him. Learn who He was, and is, and live according to the pattern He established. Most of all, cultivate a love for Him. Consistently carve out time in your schedule to worship, praise, and serve Him. In the process you will learn what it means to make Him Lord and develop a relationship that precludes you from getting shocked when He returns.

Are Evangelicals Modern-Day Pharisees?

Jesus’ teaching on love, mercy, and forgiveness has drawn people to Him for two millennia and enjoys universal appeal both within and without the Christian community. His message of hope, peace and joy has comforted those awash in despair, victimized by conflict, and burdened by suffering. But not everyone in Jesus’ day agreed with His revolutionary ideas. His most strident opponents, the Pharisees, were self-proclaimed guardians of religious law who pontificated right and wrong. They demanded the masses follow their directives or risk God’s wrath.

Not surprisingly, Jesus employed fiery rhetoric to excoriate these religious frauds and pulled no linguistic punches. He addressed the sin embedded in their lives and unveiled the hypocrisy of their faith. He exposed them as caretakers of a religious scam perpetrated on a public desperate to know God.

It is tempting for modern Christians and, especially, leaders in the evangelical community to ignore potential similarities between us and the Pharisees. Too often we refuse to consider the possibility that we practice faith in a way that mirrors how those religious imposters practiced theirs. We believe ourselves exempt from the lessons of Jesus’ scathing attacks on religious phonies because we view our faith through a self-righteous lens. Jesus’ insight on the subject applies to others but not us, we tell ourselves. Our faith is beyond reproach. Such dismissive treatment of Jesus’ words, however, proves how much we resemble the Pharisees. We disregard this likeness at our own peril.

While a thorough and detailed examination of this topic requires a treatise, this blog aims to identify several areas in which modern evangelicals often mirror First Century Pharisees. Please keep in mind the topic is addressed out of love for the church and concern for its spiritual health. I encourage readers to heed Paul’s words to “examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NKJV). The Pharisees were certain they possessed genuine faith but did not.

One of the defining attributes of the Pharisees’ faith was hypocrisy. They insisted others follow a rigid set of rules but refused to cleanse their hearts from wickedness. Jesus said they “outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:28, NKJV). This inconsistency between outward appearance and inward holiness destroys ministries, corrodes faith, impedes the work of the church, and leads to spiritual darkness. God is far more concerned with the condition of our hearts than any verbal profession of faith we make. The Pharisees prayed long, eloquent prayers in public, could quote the Torah with ease, and possessed impeccable religious credentials. Yet Jesus quoted Isaiah in describing them as people who worshipped God in vain because their hearts were far from Him.

Jesus explained that the heart defines a person’s faith not what proceeds from his or her mouth. Hypocrites honor God with their lips alone while true believers honor Him with the heart as well. What flows from your heart? Do deceit, materialism, hate, jealousy, adultery, and gossip reside there and rule your thoughts? If so, ask the Lord to remove those desires and replace them with the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23).

The Pharisees also reveled in proclaiming judgment on others. John captures an excellent example of this in his gospel account. The Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery. Her guilt is certain. Witnesses will testify of her sin. Mosaic Law required death, by stoning. They gleefully want her condemned. She is wicked, contemptible, and worthless they believe. Surely Jesus will agree. But He doesn’t. He tells them the one without sin should throw the first stone and the entire group disperses, aware of their sin. Jesus shows the woman mercy, reveals Himself to her and refuses to condemn her. That is the pattern for us as we interact with a fallen world, instead of rushing to judgment, pointing fingers of condemnation, and proclaiming “Sinner” to those practicing ungodly behavior.

That’s an important lesson for evangelicals and church leaders who insist on decrying the wickedness of Hollywood, public school curriculum, gays, abortion providers, and illegal aliens. Like the Pharisees, many are quick to proclaim the sin of people and want to remind them of God’s pending judgment for their conduct. In the process they forget about Jesus’ example. If we followed His model I suspect we would impact the nation more powerfully. We need to extend mercy, build relationships, and share Christ’s love with folks. Over time we earn the right to speak candidly about Scripture and what it says about specific topics and behaviors. Also, our voice carries far more weight when spoken as a caring friend than as a judgmental stranger. The Pharisees adopted the approach of the judgmental stranger and secured Jesus’ rebuke as a result.

Finally, pride marked the Pharisees’ lives. Consumed with self-righteousness, they demanded the best of everything, insisted on respect, and basked in prestige. In doing so they revealed the condition of their hearts. They desired the things of the world as much as the secularist. But instead of pursuing such lusts via commerce, academia, or government, they used religion as the means to achieve their objectives. Religion was an avenue to secure the status, lifestyle, comfort, and esteem that appealed to them. Rather than pursue genuine humility they exalted themselves. Instead of living selfless lives serving others they required others serve them.

Sadly, a segment of the evangelical community suffers the same fatal flaw. Pride is endemic within the church, perhaps more than any other sin. More than just tolerated it is often celebrated. Increasingly, Christians toot their religious horns. We love to proclaim the depth of our relationship with God, emphasize how He is at work in our lives, and inform others that He revealed some insight to us during a devotional. We neglect Jesus’ counsel to avoid calling attention to our spiritual growth and instead declare it to Christian peers, often in exaggerated terms. Pride prevented the Pharisees from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah and having an authentic relationship with God. Similarly, it prevents us from hearing the still, small voice of God and enjoying genuine faith in Christ.

Take time to examine your heart. Do you demonstrate a Pharisaical heart? Do your thoughts and desires reflect the faith you profess or does an inconsistency exist between the two? Are you quick to condemn others and denounce sinners or do you build relationships with them predicated on love, mercy and compassion? Do you exalt your faith before others or is it grounded in humility?

The Pharisees were convinced they were closer to God than others. They were certain of God’s favor on them; that He was well pleased with their faith. In reality they were further from God than anyone because of the hardness of their hearts. Anyone confident he or she bears no resemblance to the Pharisees is likely the one most similar. Pride deceives such individuals.

Take a moment to ask God to show the true condition of your heart. As He does, repent from any sin He reveals. Pray He removes any hypocrisy crippling your faith and any pride corroding your relationship with Him. Request He replace any judgmental attitude with a spirit of gentleness. If you do, He will answer your prayer and you will experience revitalized faith.

Snakes in the Pulpit

While waiting in line to order lunch yesterday I overheard a conversation between a pair of young adults standing in front of me. One had rolled up her sleeve to display a new tattoo encircling her upper arm. She explained to her friend that she had requested a fierce snake weaving its way around her arm and in a striking pose above her bicep. Instead, the body-art specialist created something that resembled a thick worm resting lazily around her arm. She was upset and felt betrayed. She complained that the tattoo artist oversold his expertise and now she had to live with the consequences. Rather than impressing friends with an intimidating serpent baring its fangs, she was subject to guffaws and ridicule. The resulting reality was radically different than the outcome promised.

Sadly, a similar scenario plays itself out in many churches across America every Sunday. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unscrupulous pastors preach sermons as unreliable as the promise of the tattoo artist, telling parishioners exactly what they want to hear irrespective of whether the message has any foundation in Scripture. Like the dodgy designer of body-art these pulpit pretenders say whatever is necessary to close the deal – and keep their pews packed. For them, the role of pastor is not a vocational calling to serve God but an occupational opportunity to exploit. They possess the oratory, charm, and resilience of an elite salesman and use those attributes to finagle their way into unsuspecting congregations.

Unlike the unprincipled tattoo artist who left a (mostly) permanent reminder of his fraudulence on the arm of the young lady, the churchgoer who embraces the deceitful teachings of a dishonest pastor risks eternal consequence. For that reason individuals should rigorously examine a minister’s message before accepting it as truth and living accordingly. They ought to confirm it comports with Scripture, for no decision is more critical.

So what does the Bible tell us about these spiritual snakes disguised as selfless shepherds? Let’s consider several passages that address the issue of false teaching to understand how these messengers of deceit operate and how to avoid falling prey to their lies.

The apostle Peter informs us “there will be false teachers among you who will secretly bring in destructive heresies… and many will follow their destructive ways.” He then notes, “By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words” (2 Peter 2:1-3, NKJV). Peter highlights several important points about those peddling lies in the church.

First, false teachers exist, are active in the church, and introduce their heresies in secret. They are not easily identified and their deceptive words are wrapped in reasonable sounding rhetoric. As a result, many blindly follow their instruction and end up on a spiritual path that leads to eternal destruction. Peter leaves no room for ambiguity; dishonest pastors lead many astray. It is imperative, then, that we listen carefully to what we hear from the pulpit, we understand what the Bible says, and we ensure the two are aligned.

But why do some preachers deceive their audiences and assert untruths as the Word of God? Peter explains that it is because they operate from a position of covetousness. They speak whatever words advance their agenda, even if it costs supporters their souls. They care not about bringing people closer to God, expositing Scripture with integrity, and living the gospel. Success, stature, prosperity, and influence motivate them. They love the world and the things of the world. They prey on the innocent, naïve, and desperate to fund a lifestyle of comfort, excess, and privilege.

However, those who follow agents of deceit are not entirely exculpated. They bear a degree of culpability for failing to exercise vigilance in validating what they hear aligns with God’s Word. When we abdicate that responsibility and simply hope the man (or woman) behind the lectern preaches truth we demonstrate spiritual irresponsibility. We must scrutinize what we hear on Sunday morning, at Bible studies, and what we read in Christian books and compare it with Scripture. If we don’t, we risk establishing a foundation of faith built on shifting sand.

In some instances, though, churchgoers demand false teaching and recruit ministers who preach appealing messages that contravene truth. These are people who “will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4, NKJV). Many regular church attenders have no interest in hearing God’s Word. They insist on finding a pastor who shares humorous anecdotes, spins a good yarn, and makes them feel warm and fuzzy each Sunday. Biblical truth causes such persons to recoil with disgust. They want a snake in the pulpit spitting out spiritual poison.

Unfortunately, ministers who preach accommodating sermons are becoming increasingly common as are churches that demand them. Many will find this trend encouraging and celebrate the shift away from biblically sound teaching in church. But for those who want to learn God’s Word and ground themselves in truth, the development is disturbing. They must remain diligent to ensure their pastor preaches the entirety of the Bible instead of distorting selected passages. They must exercise caution in arriving at their spiritual beliefs. Otherwise they may find their faith is the spiritual equivalent of a thick, lazy worm that disappoints.

The most misunderstood Bible verse.

Dozens of Bible translations exist today with no single version commanding a majority of sales in bookstores. Among pastors, preferences vary widely among a half dozen dominant translations. Readers and pastors alike gravitate to different versions based on perceived accuracy, readability, style, and reputation. Not surprisingly, no consensus exists as to which Bible translation is best.

So when the Christian community overwhelmingly selects one translation to quote a particular Bible verse, we ought to ask why. Perhaps the most reasonable conclusion is that the preferred translation tells us what we want to hear – it underpins the narrative we choose to believe. The fact that so many churchgoers can quote the verse from memory reinforces this inference. But such a prodigious consensus should concern us when the espoused opinion aligns neatly with what our secular culture teaches. We ought to examine more closely any such verse to determine its true intent rather than hasten recklessly to a popular perspective that indulges our desires and biases.

Jeremiah 29:11 is such a verse. One of the most recognized and oft-quoted Old Testament verses, 29:11 plays a prominent role in how many Christians define and live their faith. Unfortunately, its influence flows from a misunderstanding of its meaning. A little context around the verse is instructive. The people of Israel are living in exile in Babylon and are disheartened. The Lord has just informed them that they will remain there for seventy years. As encouragement He reminds them of two things in verse 11, their exile is part of His plan and those plans reflect their best interest. It is a difficult message to digest because it goes against the prevailing view that God will rescue His people quickly and keep them from suffering.

Let’s look at several translations of the verse. The NASB states: “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” The NKJV versions explains it like this: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Finally, the NLT translates the verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” [I’ve highlighted the key word difference in each].

All three translations make clear that God’s plans offer hope and are for the welfare/good/peace of the Israelites. But first they must endure seventy years of captivity (see verse 10). All is clear, right? Well, not so fast. Instead of understanding the verse as it’s intended, many believers embrace an entirely different message using the NIV translation. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Emphasis added). We focus on the word ‘prosper’ and insist it means that God wants His followers to enjoy wealth and prosperity. That perspective, however, fails to understand the context. It ignores the fact that their exile will continue, which is not at all what they want. So God shares a truth we would do well to remember: His plan often runs counter to our desires but is in our long-term interest. Therefore, we should never lose hope.

Frequently, we dismiss that truth. Why allow context and intent to distract us from the message we want to glean from Scripture? We want a God who blesses us with prosperity, coddles us with comfort, and frees us from discomfort. So we scour the Bible for verses that reinforce that mindset and validate our yearnings. If the truth gets lost in the process, so be it. That’s a small price to pay for enjoying a message that tickles our ears.

Sadly, the predominant view of Jeremiah 29:11 is predicated on deceit, just like the false teaching of the prophet Hananiah earlier in chapter 28. He dies two months after pontificating lies in the name of the Lord. He had told the people of Israel that, according to the word of the Lord, God would rescue them from captivity within two years. His deception cost him his life. It is a valuable lesson. We need to exercise caution in deciding who and what to believe. Pastors must diligently teach the truth, irrespective of whether people agree.

One reason the prevailing view of 29:11 finds such an enthusiastic audience in this country is because it fits with the American dream. We want to enjoy ‘the good life’ as much as our unbelieving neighbors. We want the American dream and God’s will to be one and the same. But they are not and nothing in Scripture supports such a position.

I encourage readers to examine Jeremiah 29:11 on their own. Read through the entirety of chapters 28 and 29 to understand the context and learn what God is saying to His people. Study several translations to glean the message. Most of all, resist the temptation to interpret the verse through the lens of your fleshly desires. Instead, ask the Lord to reveal His truth to you through His Holy Spirit. As you do, His word will come alive in a way you may never have experienced.

You are the beloved of God.

Most of us yearn to experience genuine, unconditional love in our lives. We seek absolute, unqualified affection from family, friends, and confidants alike. Such love inspires us to pursue bigger dreams than we ever imagined and motivates us to achieve greater accomplishments than we ever thought possible. Unconditional love encourages us to move past our failures and shortcomings and try again. Authentic love liberates us from the despair, discouragement, and hopelessness that paralyze and demoralize us. True love is the most integral input to a satisfying, fulfilled life.

Sadly, millions of Americans find such love elusive in an increasingly cold and impersonal world. We plod through life unaware of the power and hope produced by unconditional love. It appears too remote – like a desert mirage that lies just beyond our reach. We hunger for it desperately but consign ourselves to a reality that we will never possess it.

That is unfortunate since each of us has immediate access to a relationship grounded in a deeper, more authentic love than we have ever experienced. It is a love predicated on the majesty and glory of our Creator and not on our worthiness. We can never earn such love, yet we need not try because it is already ours. God’s love for you is not conditioned on doing anything to warrant it. He extends His affection because doing so brings Him pleasure.

You are dear to the heart of God. He cherishes you. He views you fondly. You are precious in the sight of God no matter what deeds darken your past. He wants to take you forward to a future filled with meaning and purpose. His love will break the shackles of regret and shame that destroy you. You are His beloved!

Take some time to revel in that truth. God loves you irrespective of how insignificant, how unworthy, or how unlovable you view yourself. He loves you no matter the stain of past behavior, the bleakness of current circumstances, or the futility-filled future you anticipate. God will restore you from the past, transform your present condition, and infuse your future with hope. That is good news. Indeed it is the Great News of the gospel.

Keep in mind, though, as the beloved of God we should not expect a life of comfort, pleasure, leisure, and luxury. God does not award in this life His beloved with an absence of trials, challenges, pain, or struggles. Instead He uses difficult events to transform us, draw us closer to Him, and teach us to trust Him. We learn to view the world through His eyes, to share His love with others, and to adopt His priorities. In the process we discover a life overflowing with significance and joy. For evidence we need look no further than the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

The apostle Matthew recounts three instances in which God calls Jesus, ‘My Beloved,” (see Matthew 3:17; 12:18; 17:5, NKJV). On each occasion Almighty God asserts, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” We learn three things about Jesus in these verses.

  • He is the beloved of God.
  • He is the Son of God.
  • He has pleased God.

We might expect someone with these credentials to enjoy a long life filled with material blessings, career success, abundant prosperity, and the absence of pain. Yet Jesus endured a short life (thirty-three years) marked by ridicule and contempt from his peers, crammed with suffering, and which lacked worldly riches. His life refutes the perception (often taught as doctrine) that God rewards His people with health, wealth, pleasure, and comfort. In fact, no one ever pleased God as fully as Jesus did yet He died impoverished and despised, and suffered a brutal, unjustified death at the hands of those who hated God.

While none of us may undergo such a similarly vicious conclusion to this world, we ought to recognize that a life pleasing to God is often accompanied by trouble, anguish, and toil. Such experiences do not reflect the absence of God in our lives but rather allow us to reveal His strength, love and power to those around us. In view of Jesus’ life and death we should recalibrate our expectation of what it means to be beloved of God.

Like Jesus we ought to pursue lives that align to God’s will, advance His agenda, and bring Him glory – not in a futile attempt to earn His favor and unconditional love but in recognition that we have already received both. Our desire to please and serve Him ought to be born of our awareness that He gives our life meaning, fullness, and hope. Those in turn equip us with the resolve to follow Him no matter the cost.

Does your life enjoy the unconditional, authentic love of God – a love that sustains you through whatever trials life places in your path? If not, call out today and ask Him to reveal His deep, abiding love to you, His beloved. When he bestows that affection on you remember it may not improve your circumstances (indeed they may get tougher) but it will equip you with the strength to overcome them. And living in that love makes life much more joyous, meaningful, and hopeful.

When Evangelicals Ignore Jesus.

Evangelicals emphasize a commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture and the belief that it represents the literal word of God. But on one particular topic we behave as though the Bible were fallible and ignore what Jesus taught. Instead we embrace a secular worldview that appeals to us and dismiss as irrelevant Jesus’ many lessons on the subject. We have little interest entertaining the idea that our perspective on the matter contravenes the very Bible we claim to follow so closely. Rather than accept the unambiguous principle Jesus conveyed we scrutinize God’s word for exceptions to the rule, to excuse us from following His counsel. As a result we face the dangers, temptations, and risks He warned us would occur when we follow our desires instead of His guidance.

Jesus informed His disciples that, “it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” (Matthew 19:23, NLT). Knowing this truth would surprise the disciples He immediately reinforced His point, “l say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (vs. 24). This shocked the disciples who wondered, “who then can be saved?” (vs. 25). We tend to focus on Jesus’ response to that question, “with God all things are possible,” (Matthew 19:26, NKJV). We insist that Jesus’ message has very little to do with the difficulty of the rich going to heaven and everything to do with accomplishing anything we want with God’s help. But if Jesus had simply wanted to emphasize the point that all things are possible with God, He needn’t have said anything at all about the wealthy.

Jesus’ primary message in the passage is that the wealthy rarely get to heaven. This should not surprise us. A cursory study of the Bible reveals the basis for this truth. Pride often resides with the affluent who tend to credit themselves for their success. Frequently, they ignore the needs of others, use their resources selfishly, and demonstrate a lack of compassion for the less fortunate. Worse of all, they fall in love with the things of the world and develop an idolatrous relationship with riches and the world. The Old Testament is replete with examples – as is modern America.

Jesus understood the dangers, temptations, and risks associated with acquiring wealth. He frequently warned His followers of these and consistently cautioned them against pursuing the things of this world. Doing so almost always leads away from God and precludes the joy of eternal life. In fact, Jesus references wealthy individuals on at least three occasions during His ministry and in every instance the person is separated from God and falls short of heaven. Let’s look briefly at each.

In the first a man asks Jesus to command his brother split an inheritance with him. In response, Jesus advises the crowd, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses,” (Luke 12:15, NKJV). Jesus’ point is clear. Quit focusing on this world and wasting time collecting things. That is not what this life is about. He then shares a parable about a rich farmer who harvests a bountiful crop. Instead of thanking God, sharing with the poor, and using the income to fund God’s work, the man responds selfishly, greedily, and arrogantly. He credits himself for his wealth and lavishes himself with luxury. God calls him a fool and informs him that he will die that night and must exchange his soul for the life he lived. Jesus then challenges the crowd, explaining that such is the case for everyone “who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God,” (Luke 12:21, NKJV). Wealth almost invariably distracts us from investing in our relationship with God and fulfilling His will. That is why Jesus required His disciples renounce everything before following Him.

In the second example a rich, young ruler approaches Jesus and inquires about what he must do to achieve eternal life. Jesus reminds him of several commandments, to which the young man responds, “All these I have kept from my youth,” (Luke 18:21, NKJV). On hearing this Jesus tells him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me,” (Luke 18:22, NKJV). At this, the man walks away in sorrow. He has no interest in following Christ or attaining eternal life if it costs him his possessions and wealth. The man had deceived himself into believing he was living his life for God and on the fast-track to heaven. But with one simple command Jesus explodes that myth. So it is with many of us. We have convinced ourselves we are evangelical Christians who love the Lord, do His will, and are heaven-bound. But our love for the world, our pursuit of possessions, and our lives of luxury suggest otherwise. We, too, have been deceived.

Finally, Jesus shares a parable about Lazarus and a rich man (we never learn the wealthy man’s name because he is a composite for the affluent). We learn little about him except that he “was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and lived each day in luxury,” (Luke 16:19, NLT). He showed no compassion for the poor, displayed no humility or gratitude toward God, and refused to direct His resources to advance God’s Kingdom. He was consumed with himself and believed his riches were his to be used however he wanted. On death he is cast into hell and tormented. Again, Jesus reminds us how dangerous wealth can be. It diverts our attention from our true purpose in this world (to know Christ and make Him known to others), and convinces us to focus on ourselves, the collection of material things, enjoying the lap of luxury, and entertaining ourselves. As we pursue those objectives we find ourselves further and further from God and His will.

Of course, Christian leaders will remind us that it is not a sin to be wealthy. That is true. They will also assert that God sometimes materially blesses those who follow Him. That is also true. What we often fail to hear from them, though, is the truth that wealth frequently leads us away from the Lord and corrodes our relationship with Him. It repeatedly leads to arrogance, selfishness, greed, and idolatry. For this reason readers ought to resist the temptation to chase riches and the things of this world as that almost always leads to destruction and torment.

 

Postscript: This blog provides rudimentary coverage of the topic but Scripture says much more on the subject of wealth and the danger it represents, the temptation it produces, and the deceit it manufactures. We would do well to explore more closely Jesus’ teachings on the subject. I address this theme thoroughly in my book, Difficult Is the Path: Why Life as a Disciple of Jesus Is Not for the Fainthearted. It is available at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon.