The Outward Varnish of Religion

“I had to offer sacrifices, 

and today I have paid my vows.”

Proverbs 7:14

Ravi Zacharias is a well-known Christian apologist, speaker, and evangelist. His books have been widely read, his YouTube videos have been widely watched, and his conferences have been widely attended. As one listens to him, he seems to exude Christian humility and gentleness. However, ever since his death in 2020, there has been an extensive investigation into Ravi Zacharias’ sexual misconduct. And just last week, the twelve-page report that reveals the findings of the independent investigation into his sexual wrongdoing was released (you can also find the latest Christianity Today article here). Ravi’s sexual misconduct has been made manifest now, and it has become apparent that he was a sexual predator.

As I read through the evidence in the report my stomach churned, and my face cringed. Ravi’s sexual sin is deplorable and sickening. One of the worst parts is that he seems to have used his ministry as a cover for sin. He utilized his Christian faith to his advantage in manipulating and coercing young ladies into certain sexual acts. In light of these recent revelations, this week I wanted to write on Proverbs 7:14 to reveal that the Bible actually talks about this evil tactic of using religion to coerce and seduce someone.

Proverbs 7 – The Adulteress

Within the book of Proverbs, chapters 5-7 deal extensively with sexual sin. In each chapter, there are warnings against the sin of adultery (Proverbs 5:9-14, 21-23; 6:26-35; 7:22-27) and the enticing allure of the adulteress (Proverbs 5:3; 6:24-25; 7:5, 10-21). Though these chapters present a wealth of wisdom, I want to focus on the fact that the adulteress in Proverbs 7:14 presents herself in the garments of religion in hopes to entice the simple man to drink the poison of sexual sin with her.

When the adulteress launches her attack in Proverbs 7, she is “dressed as a prostitute” (7:10), “loud and wayward” (7:11), and waiting for a man whom she can satisfy her sinful lusts with (7:12). Once she discovers her next victim, she lays hold of him and “kisses him” (7:13). Though this is a bold sexual encounter in and of itself, she wants to go further. It is at this point that she uses religion as a means to coerce and entice the simple man to bring this initial sexual encounter to its full consummation. She says to him, “I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows” (7:14).

Most translations translate “sacrifices” as peace offerings. The peace offering was a unique sacrifice because it was one of the only offerings where the offeror was given a large portion of the sacrifice so that they might return home and partake in it in a celebratory way with both friends and family (Leviticus 7:11-21). And in our passage, the adulteress has just offered up peace offerings at the temple, the dwelling place of God. She is now headed back home to feast on the remaining parts of the sacrifice.

While she’s headed home, she invites the simple man to come along with her. She wants him there so that he might partake in the rest of the sacrifice with her . . . . as well as some carnal love. It seems like she believes that, because of her sacrificial offering, God is rewarding her by satisfying her sinful passions (Proverbs 7:15-20). At the end of the day, it is apparent that the adulteress is covering up the sexual mischievousness of her heart with the outward varnish of religion.

Sadly, the simple man falls prey to her carnal passions that are robed in religious garments. He follows her “as an ox goes to the slaughter, as a stag is caught fast” (Proverbs 7:22), and “as a bird rushes into a snare” (Proverbs 7:23). The simple man of Proverbs 7 is seen as another casualty in the adulteress’ hunt to satisfy own her fleshly appetite (Proverbs 7:26).

Ravi – The Adulterer

Like the adulteress of Proverbs 7, Ravi Zacharias also used his religious garments to help him fulfill his sexual passions. Because Ravi had significant backpain, he would frequently go to receive a massage. While he was receiving these massages from young ladies, he would strike up casual conversations with them. 

One massage therapist said that these conversations led her to think of Ravi as a “father figure” to her. He would speak to her about spiritual things and would inquire about her financial situation. Upon hearing that she was struggling financially, he secured ministry funds to help her out. Shortly after this, he elicited sex from her. In recounting this time in her life, the lady said that Ravi would use “religious expressions to gain her compliance.” He would make her pray with him. He would call her his “reward” from God because of his faithful service to the Lord. Indeed, Ravi drove home the point that “the Lord understood what he had sacrificed” and implied that “their sexual exchanges were God’s way of rewarding him.” He then warned her not to speak out against him because that would “damage his reputation” and lead “millions of souls” to hell.

Another lady said that Ravi groomed her in a similar way. Throughout their conversations, Ravi “gained her trust as a spiritual guide, confidante, and notable Christian statemen.” As she began to see Ravi as a spiritual authority in her life, he started using his influence “to exploit her vulnerability to satisfy his own sexual desires.” Though Ravi and this lady were never physically intimate, intimate photos were shared. 

As you can see, Ravi was enslaved to sexual sin and he used his ministry platform to coerce young ladies. With his worldwide Christian ministry, he groomed women to respect him. This was all, of course, so that he might gratify his flesh with them. Then, with his worldwide Christian ministry platform, he warned the women to stay silent about it. At the end of the day, Ravi abused the Christian faith as a means to fulfill his godless passions. In doing so, he betrayed his wife, victimized many women, delegitimized his worldwide ministry, and dishonored the name of Christ.

Since seemingly godly people use the Christian faith as a means to satisfy their sinful lusts, may we all learn to “beware of any voice, though from the most revered quarter, that manifestly encourages forbidden indulgence.” And may we, those of us that have a ministry platform, learn to leverage our authority and influence for the edification of the church rather than the indulgence of the flesh. For we serve a God that will one day wipe away the outward varnish of religion and expose us for who we truly are.

Beastly Beauty

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout 

is a beautiful woman without discretion.”

Proverbs 11:22

Though our contemporary culture would be accused of toxic masculinity for saying something like this, the Spirit inspired biblical author believes this is a wise and profitable teaching. Whereas we would have said that a beautiful woman lacking discretion is a bit of a disappointment, Solomon regards her as a monstrosity. As one thinks through the meaning of such a vivid and graphic proverb, they quickly realize that this is a lesson often neglected in our society that prizes beauty over discretion. We would be wise to wean ourselves from the present-day culture’s way of thinking and to lay this biblical wisdom to heart.

External Beauty

External beauty, like a gold ring, is a gift from God. As one makes their way through the Bible, they will quickly notice that Rachel was beautiful in appearance (Genesis 29:17), that Job’s daughters were more beautiful than all others (Job 42:15), that Esther had a stunning figure (Esther 2:7), that Joseph was handsome in form (Genesis 39:6), that Moses was beautiful in the Lord’s eyes (Acts 7:20), and that David had lovely eyes and was regarded as good-looking (1 Samuel 25:33). It is evident that external beauty is not an anathema in the eyes of the Lord. Like a gold ring, beauty is both valuable and desirable. It is a good gift from a benevolent God.

Gold Rings on Pigs

Nevertheless, just as a gold ring loses its outwards appeal and desirability when it is attached to an unclean pig’s snout, so external beauty loses its attractiveness and allure when it is attached to a woman that lacks discretion. A pig takes the gold ring that is pierced through his snout and begins to root up the ground. The shine of the gold ring loses its charm as it gets covered with the mire and mud of the earth. The valuable and beautiful ring becomes unbecoming and undesirable as one looks at the filthy creature behind it.

Beauty Without Discretion

And so it is when external beauty is attached to a woman lacking discretion. To have discretion is to have godly wisdom and discernment that allows one to act in a way that honors the Lord. Discretion is what the beautiful Abigail had when she counseled King David not to avenge himself but to leave vengeance to the Lord (1 Samuel 25:33). On the other hand, to lack discretion is to lack godly wisdom and discernment. This, in turn, causes one to act in a way that is distasteful to Christ.

The beautiful woman that lacks discretion spends her days wallowing in the sewage and sludge of the world. Rather than pleasantly speaking about spiritual things, she gives her tongue to gossip and slander. Instead of adorning herself with good works that are pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ, she gives unbridled reign to her sensual passions. When she could be tenderly tending to other’s for Christ’s sake, she selfishly seeks her own self-interest. While she lives this life, she lives for her own sinful lusts. 

And as she lives a life that lacks discretion, her external beauty becomes as unbecoming and undesirable as a gold ring in a pig snout. While the godly, virtuous wife is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30), the woman without discretion is to be pitied. If she were in Christ and filled with the Spirit, she could be pictured as the crown of her husband and as far more precious than jewels (Proverbs 12:4; Proverbs 31:10), but while she remains apart from Christ and lacking discretion, she is pictured as nothing more than an undesirable gold ring in a pig’s snout.

All That Glitters Is Not Gold!

The simple believes everything, 

but the prudent gives thought to his steps.”

Proverbs 14:15

In the 1500s there was an English seaman and privateer named Sir Martin Frobisher. He made numerous voyages to the new world. On his first voyage he stumbled across what he believed to be gold. As you can imagine, this caused quite a bit of excitement to folks back in his homeland. Before long, he was sending copious amounts of this “gold” back to his home country. He was a rockstar. He was even garnering the Queen’s attention!

Before long, though, it was discovered that the mineral that he was mining was not gold. It was nothing more than a bunch of invaluable minerals combined to make up a rock that looked like gold. As we would say today, it was fool’s gold. Sir Martin Frobisher learned the hard way that all that glitters is not gold. 

The Simple

And from the proverb above we learn that all that is said is not true. Nevertheless, like Sir Martin Frobisher on his first voyage, the simple man has not yet learned this lesson. Throughout the book of Proverbs, the simple man is the one who lacks godly wisdom and understanding. This causes him to be easily deceived and persuaded. Since he does not have enough godly wisdom and understanding to discern the truthfulness of a statement, he believes everything that anybody says.

This is certainly the case when it comes to matters of Christian doctrine and Christian living. The Bible teaches that false teachers will always exist. The first false teacher, Satan, appears in Genesis three. Other false teachers rise up throughout both the Old and New Testament. Many false teachers appear throughout church history. Today, countless false teachers continue to spring up.

Paul warns that these false teachers will arise from within local churches “speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:26). The author of Hebrews warns Christians not to “be led away by diverse and strange teachings (Hebrews 13:9). Peter told the churches he was writing to that false teachers will be among them “who will secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:10). As one reads the Bible, it seems inevitable that Christians and local churches will meet with false teachers at some point.

And the simple man does not stand a chance against these false teachers. As he hears twisted things that are contrary to the clear testimony of the Bible, he will believe them. He will mistake the elaborate doctrinal innovations of man as the revelation of God. When this occurs, it will be just as the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4. The simple man will be “tossed to and fro by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, and by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). Ultimately, just as the Spirit said through Paul, the simple-minded Christian will “be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

The Prudent

This is not the case with the prudent. Throughout the book of Proverbs, the prudent man is the one that has godly wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 13:16; 14:18). This goldy wisdom and understanding allows him to act in a way that is honoring to the Lord (Proverbs 13:16; 14:15; 27:12). This is especially the case when it comes to matters of Christian doctrine and Christian living.

The prudent man has learned that all that is said is not true. As our Proverb says, “the prudent gives thoughts to his steps” (14:15). Like the Bereans of old, the prudent man eagerly listens to a teacher all the while “examining the Scriptures daily” to see if the teaching lines up with the Bible (Acts 17:11). He is aware that he needs to test a teaching before he trusts it (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). For the prudent man, this is not a matter of unhealthy skepticism. Rather, it is a matter of prayerful and careful consideration. Unlike the simple man, he knows that his soul is at stake so he “gives thoughts to his steps” (Proverbs 14:15).

Life Giving Water

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, 

that one may turn away from the snares of death.”

Proverbs 13:14

In our day, there is a tendency to think about the Christian life as a life of ease. This mainstream way of thinking, however, is at odds with the Bible. Rather than being a life of ease, the Christian life is filled with numerous snares that will lead to eternal death. 

Within the pages of Scripture, we see sin as a vicious predator lurking at our door with an intense desire to devour us (Genesis 4:7). We are taught that sinful passions are consistently waging war against our souls (Romans 8:13; 1 Peter 2:11). We are informed that Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion that would love to have us as his next victim (1 Peter 5:8). We are warned of the fact that we live within an evil world system that is seeking to allure and entice us to embrace its ungodly ways (Revelation 18). And we are clearly taught that there are false teachers that are “waterless springs” and “fruitless trees” that will seemingly promise us life but that will ultimately lead us to death (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 12-13).

As you can see, the Christian life is not a life of ease. Rather, from beginning to end, it is a war filled with many battles. The Christian life is lived out in enemy territory, it is fraught with many dangers, and the snares of eternal death are everywhere. In fact, it is so difficult that those who make it out alive end up exclaiming, “I fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7)!

The Dangerous Christian Pilgrimage

Few men have understood this concept of the Christian life more clearly than John Bunyan. In his famous allegorical work Pilgrim’s Progress, he portrays the Christian life as a difficult journey consisting of many dangers, toils, and snares. Christian, the main character in the allegory, is constantly attacked by the world, the flesh, and the devil as he makes his way to the Celestial City. 

Christian runs into people like Mr. Worldly Wiseman. Worldly Wiseman gives Christian worldly counsel in hopes to lead him off the narrow path that leads to life. As Christian makes his way up The Hill of Difficulty, he falls prey to the sin of sluggishness. Rather than pressing on through difficulty, he gives in and falls asleep. When Christian descends into The Valley of Humiliation, he encounters the mighty Apollyon (Satan). Apollyon opposes Christian with great nastiness. 

At every turn, the world, the flesh, and the devil are laying snares to keep Christian from making it to Christ’s Celestial City. This always leads the reader to ask, “Will Christian make it? Will he be able to stay on the straight and narrow path even though there are dangers all around him?” From all of this, it is clear that Bunyan believed that followers of Christ are always within close proximity to the snares of death.

A Godly Pastor as an Aid

Thankfully, throughout the allegory, Bunyan conveys that Christian, with the aid of Christ the King, will make it. At one point in Pilgrim’s Progress, a man named The Interpreter informs Christian of one aid that Christ is pleased to use to keep Christian away from the snares of death and on the narrow path that leads to everlasting life. The aid is a godly pastor; a pastor who rightly divides the word of God.

In the mind of Bunyan, a godly pastor is one who “begets” and “nurses” Christians in the faith, has his eyes “lifted to heaven,” has the Bible in his hands, and “has truth on his lips.” His desire is to know and unfold biblical truth to sinners, to plead with men about spiritual realities, and to press on people’s consciences the certainties of the world to come. This is the man whom Christ has “authorized to be your guide in all the difficult places that you may encounter on the way.” The Interpreter wants Christian to stay close to the godly pastor because, as he journeys to the Celestial City, many people will pretend to lead him down the right path, “but their way goes down to death.” 

In Christian’s encounter with The Interpreter, it is evident that Bunyan himself thoroughly believed that “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Proverbs 13:14). One of the main aids that God has given Christians to avoid the snares of death and to work out their salvation with fear and trembling is the consistent intake of godly teaching (1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2). When Christians sit under the faithful teaching and preaching ministry of a man that God has gifted with wisdom and knowledge, they find that such preaching is a fountain, a source, of spiritual life. They find that such teaching nourishes their souls and leads them away from the snares of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

A Blessed Memory

“The memory of the righteous is a blessing, 

but the name of the wicked will rot.”

Proverbs 10:7

The righteous are those who belong to God, have godly wisdom, and live in accordance with God’s ways. Throughout Proverbs, the righteous are those who fear God (1:7), carry out justice (8:20), increase in learning (9:9), speak profitable things (10:11, 21), remain steadfast (10:30), bear fruit like a tree (11:30), care for their neighbor (12:26), hate falsehood (13:50), and walk in integrity (20:7). 

The righteous live eminently godly lives filled with acts of service to King Jesus. They offer up their bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord (Romans 12:1). Their lives are filled with such godly virtues that they become paradigms of some of the virtues that God works in us by the Spirit. In essence, the righteous are those who truly live in this life.

Nonetheless, though the righteous truly live in this life, they still end up dying. Once they are gone, all we have are memories of them. These memories become blessings to the people of God. This is one of the ways that God honors those who honor him (Psalm 112:6). God sees to it that blessed men and women leave behind blessed memories; memories that are so profitable to the people of God that they are regarded as blessings from God.

We are blessed when we remember how Abraham was willing to offer up Isaac because he was confident that God would raise his son from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-20). Our spirits are encouraged when we think about how Moses chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin in Egypt (Hebrews 11:24-25). Our souls are renewed with zeal when we remember the steadfastness of Job in the midst of an onslaught of fiery trials (James 5:11).

Sweet Memories of William Tyndale

This is also one of the chief reasons so many Christians have benefited from reading biographies of righteous men and women throughout history. Just the other day I was reading about William Tyndale. Throughout the 1520s and 1530s, Tyndale’s main ambition was to translate both the Old and New Testament into English. Though this was illegal and punishable by death during his time, he was filled with a godly resolve to get the Bible into the language of the common man. Before he began this extraordinarily difficult task, Tyndale famously said to a very learned man, “If God spare my life, in a few years I will cause a boy that drives the plough to know more of the Scripture than you do.”

To enable the plough boy to know more Scripture than the learned man proved to be an audacious endeavor. Tyndale had to live as a fugitive on the run, he had to master the Greek and Hebrew language, and he had to find men that would print his translations even though it could cost them their lives. In all of this, Tyndale did not waver. Before long, his English Bible was circulating throughout England. As the Bible was placed into the plough boy’s hands, the plough boy began to know more Scripture than the Pope!

Although this was a remarkable feat, it proved to cost Tyndale his life. Because of his translation work, in 1536 he was tied to a stake, strangled to death by an iron chain, and then burned. William Tyndale gave up his life for the cause of Christ, the Word of God, and the building up of the church. Even though he is gone, we still hear his voice every time we read our English Bible. As you can see, “The memory of the righteous is a blessing” (Proverbs 10:7).

Not so With the Wicked

This is not so with the wicked. For those who do not belong to God, lack godly wisdom, and rebel against God’s good design, their names will rot. When they die, both their body and their names will decay. God will see to it that the wicked are either forgotten (2 Kings 9:30-37; Job 18:5-17; Psalm 9:5), or that they will be remembered with shame and detestation (Romans 9:13; 2 Timothy 3:8-9; Revelation 2:20).

The Stench of Henry Phillips

Take Henry Phillips for example. This is the wicked man who was hired to befriend William Tyndale for the express purpose of betraying him. The same money loving spirit that drove Judas to betray the Son of God fueled Henry Phillips to betray Tyndale, a translator of the Word of God. After Phillips gambled away a large sum of money that his father had entrusted to him, he was willing to do anything to pay off his debt. Knowing this, a wealthy man that abhorred the reformers offered Phillips a sizable amount of money to spy on, befriend, and betray Tyndale. In love with money, Phillips agreed. 

He proved to be remarkably successful in this endeavor. Before long, he lured Tyndale into a trap. Tyndale was then arrested and jailed. As we mentioned earlier, he was then tied to a stake, strangled to death, and then set ablaze. For the church, the memory of Tyndale is a blessing. The memory of Henry Phillips, however, has faded into oblivion. Even when Henry Phillips’ name is mentioned, it is remembered with sense of disgrace.

Righteousness Receives The Crown

“Gray hair is a crown of glory;

it is gained in a righteous life.”

Proverbs 16:31

Even at a very young age, C.H. Spurgeon was a great preacher. As pastors throughout the area became aware of how powerfully Spurgeon preached, they would invite him to come preach in their pulpits. One of the pastors that invited Spurgeon to come fill his pulpit was Mr. Sutton, of Cottenham. Though Sutton had never placed his eyes on Spurgeon, he was eager for Spurgeon to come preach one of his anniversary sermons.

When Sutton’s eyes finally landed on Spurgeon, Sutton was a bit shocked to find that Spurgeon was only a teenager. He immediately regretted inviting this boy preacher to come preach one of his anniversary sermons to a congregation that was jam packed in the sanctuary. The gray-haired Mr. Sutton told Spurgeon, “I shouldn’t have asked you here, had I known you were such a bit of a boy.” To which the young fiery eyed Spurgeon quipped, “I can go back as easily as I came.” Mr. Sutton, however, did not ask Spurgeon to leave. He unexcitedly went ahead and let Spurgeon address his congregation. Though he did rudely and impolitely let Spurgeon know that he didn’t expect much from a young preacher that still had his mother’s milk in his mouth!

When it came time for Spurgeon to preach, he picked up the book of Proverbs and read aloud, “Gray hair is a crown of glory” (16:31a). After reading he looked at the congregation and said, “I doubt it, for, this morning, I met with a man who has a hoary (gray) head, yet he has not learnt common civility to his fellow-men.” Then Spurgeon proceeded to read the second half of the verse, “it is gained in a righteous life” (16:31b). He then said boldly, “Ah! that’s another thing; a hoary head would then be a crown of glory, and, for the matter of that, so would a red head, or a head of any other color.” 

A Saucy Dog!

After these initial comments, Spurgeon went on to preach the sermon he had originally planned to herald. Mr. Sutton came up afterwards and said, “Bless your heart! I have been a minister nearly forty years, and I was never better pleased with a sermon in all my life, but you are the sauciest dog that ever barked in the pulpit.”

Spurgeon was a saucy dog, and this saucy dog taught Mr. Sutton two lessons that day. The first lesson was that gray hair is only a crown of glory when it is gained by years of righteous living. This is the main meaning of the proverb above. The second lesson was that a dark headed teenager with a passion for righteousness is worth listening to! This is an implication of the proverb that Spurgeon felt the freedom to draw out. For our purposes, we will focus on the main meaning.

Gray Hair – Crown of Glory

The Christian that lives a righteous life enters into his latter years with gray hair that is a crown of glory. They have spent decades meditating on and memorizing the Bible. Their constant devouring of the word of God allows them to speak the word of Christ to those around them. As they have lived in God’s world, God has refined and further conformed them into the image of Christ through fiery trials. Faced with difficult situations where it actually costs them to obey God, they have steadfastly remained faithful to Christ despite the costs.

Throughout all of this, God has slowly rid them of pride and produced within them ever increasing humility. They “flourish like the palm tree”, they “grow like a cedar”, and “they bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:12,14). Spending time with them is one of the greatest blessings in this earthly life. Their gray hair is a crown of glory, and those within the church ought to esteem them as paradigms of godly wisdom and virtue.

Gray Hair – Not Necessarily a Crown Of Glory

Nevertheless, just because a person is aged does not mean they possess the crown of glory. Apart from a righteous life, their gray hair is merely a crown that lies debased in the dust of the earth. Rather than living righteously to attain the crown of glory, they have lived wickedly storing up the wrath of God. Their “white hairs of ungodliness bespeak ripeness for wrath.” With this in mind, Charles Bridges said, “For what is a more lamentable spectacle, than a graceless old man.” Bridges is right. There is not a more lamentable sight that a graceless old man that has squandered decades of his life in service to the world, the flesh, and the devil.

This is not to say that the young are not to honor and respect even the ungodliest of older men. As followers of Christ, younger Christians should honor and respect them. However, nobody should be so foolish as to think that, just because someone is older, they possess godly wisdom, understanding, and counsel. If they have not live righteously, they lack the crown of glory that comes with old age. This means that Christians should not view them as paradigms of godly wisdom and virtue.

2020 In Books

One of my favorite parts of the year is when prominent Christian pastors, theologians, and websites begin posting their top ten book lists. This allows me to peruse these lists in hopes to find some good books to read in the upcoming year.

In what follows, I’ll post the ten books that I most enjoyed reading this year (in no particular order), and then I’ll post a link to top ten book lists from other pastors, theologians, and websites. My list will include books from any particular year, while other people’s lists will usually pertain to books that came out in 2020. My hope is that you will find some good Christian books to read throughout 2021 that will stir your affections for Jesus.

My List

Tethered to the Cross: The Life and Preaching of Charles Spurgeon by Thomas Breimaier – Though this will probably not appeal to some readers, as a lover of all things Spurgeon, it certainly appealed to me. Breimaier navigates Spurgeon’s writings and sermons to show his readers that Spurgeon’s hermeneutic, no matter what Scripture he was looking at, was crucicentric and conversionistic. For me, this book had the same result as Spurgeon’s sermons and writings do, it made me want to love Christ more!

To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson – If you lost your job, depleted your savings account, and lost all your investment in cryptocurrency, you should still find a way to buy this book. I find biographies on missionaries to be gripping, and Anderson’s To the Golden Shore was the best missionary biographies that I’ve ever read. It was thrilling reading about the life and ministry of Adoniram Judson. Few men have accomplished so much for the name of Christ as Judson. And few men have endured so much suffering for the name of Christ as Judson. After reading this book, you will find Adoniram Judson to be one of your heroes in the Christian faith.

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund – The puritans used to say that certain books were a balm to every wound. In contemporary terms, I guess this book would be Neosporin for your every spiritual wound. Ortlund uses the Bible and voices from the past to show his readers that Christ is not a Savior that reluctantly deals with sinners. Rather, Christ is a gentle and lowly Savior that delights in showing mercy and steadfast love to sinners. You will find this book immensely encouraging. Make sure you have it on your reading list for 2021!

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance-Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair Ferguson – I know what you are thinking, “What a remarkably long and uninteresting title!” Before you scroll past, though, listen to what Alistair Begg said about this work, “I know of no one other than Sinclair Ferguson who has the capacity, patience, and skill to unearth an ancient debate, set in a Scottish village with an unpronounceable name, and show its compelling relevance to gospel preaching and Christian living. This may be Sinclair’s best and most important book. Take up and read!” This book really is an important read. It reveals how we can indiscreetly fall into legalism. It teaches us how we are prone to separate the benefits of salvation from union with Christ. And it reveals how we, as Christians, can gain gospel assurance.

The Person of Christ by Donald Macleod – This book was written in 1998. I determined to read a lot of books on the person of Christ this year, and the newer books I was reading were regularly referencing Macleod’s The Person of Christ. I light of this, I went and bought it. Let’s just say that I was not disappointed. As a matter of fact, I was so pleased with Macleod’s insights in The Person of Christ that I bought and read two more of his books. Anyhow, I found this book to be very good!

A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life by J.I. Packer – The Puritans believed that all biblical knowledge should lead to godly living. As they read the Bible, they believed that God was teaching them how to live as exiles here in this wilderness of a world. When they preached sermons, they drove home the main point of the passage and then labored extensively to apply it to their hearers. Needless to say, the Puritans knew how to live God honoring lives. In this book, Packer teaches us how we might imitate the Puritans in their quest for godliness.

Spurgeon on the Christian Life: Alive in Christ by Michael Reeves – Here is the thing, I love Charles Spurgeon and I love Michael Reeves. And God, in his grace, made Michael Reeves a Spurgeon scholar. This means that whenever Michael Reeves writes a book on Spurgeon, I must read it. So what about this book? I don’t think it is the best biography on Spurgeon, but I think it is a great book to introduce people to Spurgeon’s life, ministry, and teachings. If you don’t know much about how God mightily used this 19th century English Baptist pastor, then this book will give you a good introduction to him.

Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George M. Marsden – This is considered one of the most important biographies ever written about Jonathan Edwards. I, personally and embarrassingly, had never read a biography about Jonathan Edwards, so Marsden’s biography was a bit overwhelming! Marsden shows EXTENSIVE knowledge of the times of Edwards, the life of Edwards, and the impact of Edwards. So this is probably not the best biography to introduce you to Edwards, but it is certainly an important book for knowing and understanding Edwards. If I were you, I would read some shorter biographies about Edwards first. Then I would read this one a little later on.

The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson – Just the other day I was talking with a man entrenched in the Charismatic Movement. His claim was that Baptists are scared of the Holy Spirit. My claim was that Baptists aren’t scared of the Holy Spirit, but have a completely different understanding of the role of the Spirit in the life of a Christian. He placed overwhelming emphasis on his experiences (being slain in the Spirit, speaking in tongues, slithering on the floor like a snake, etc.), while I placed my emphasis on the biblical teaching of the Spirit. I say all that to say this; Ferguson, in the pages of this book, will give you a healthy understanding of the Holy Spirit. This book is thoroughly biblical and grounded in good sound theology.

Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind by Owen Strachan – This is an important and timely book. Throughout history, major current events usually lead to greater theological precision in the church. For example, in the days of the Reformation, there was greater theological precision on the biblical doctrine of justification. During the 19th and 20th century, there was greater theological precision on the inspiration of the Bible. Current events fueled the church to be more precise! And in our day, where women claim to be men and where men claim to be women, the church needs greater theological precision in what it means to be human. This book will help the church in this area.

My Wife’s Top Three

My wife always wants me to put a few of her favorite reads of 2020 on here, so here are a few that my wife thoroughly enjoyed reading.

Knowing God by J.I. Packer – In 2006, Christianity Today said that Knowing God was one of the top fifty books that have most shaped evangelicals. Though Christianity Today said that in 2006, it is still true today, fourteen years later. Packer is both precise and lucid in Knowing God. He will teach you a great deal about the triune God that we, as Christians, know, love, and serve.

Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies – It is hard to overstate the simple fact that, behind many of the great men throughout church history, there were godly mothers. These women loved the Bible, Christ, and their families. They relentlessly evangelized and taught their children all that they could about the Christian faith. And God, in his grace, used their ministry to shape their children for the remarkable labor He would use them for later on. This book will allow you to learn more about these stories.

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan – Since this book has been published many times throughout hundreds of years, there are a ton of different versions of it. I prefer the classic with the old English. Others prefer a modernized version. The link that I have attached is to the modern version. With all that said, Pilgrim’s Progress used to be one of the most popular Christian books of all time. Sadly, however, we may be the first generation of Christians that are largely unfamiliar with this book. In all honesty, the more I talk to people, it seems like our generation is even unfamiliar with the title of this book. . . . . which is incredibly sad. I say all that to say this; as a Christian, you need to read or listen to this book at least once. There is a reason the majority of Christians have had this on their bookshelves over the last three hundred years!

Other People’s List

Kevin Deyoung’s Top Ten Book List

The Gospel Coalitions 2020 Book Awards

For the Church | The 2020 FTC Book Awards

Tim Challies’ Top Ten Book List

Trevin Wax’s Top Ten Book List

9Marks Pastor’s Talk on a Bunch of Fun Biographies

More Lists Will Come

There will be more lists that come out. As they do, I will try to add them to this blog. I hope this allows you to find some good books!

A COVID-19 Spiritual Care Package

God’s Ordained Means to Satisfaction in Christ

Within the Christian life, God has ordained that certain disciplines, when done in faith, will further our sanctification and give us ever increasing joy and satisfaction in Christ. Here are some of those disciplines:

    • Bible Intake (Reading, Meditating, Memorizing, & Listening to the Bible)
    • Preaching & Teaching
    • Prayer (Personal Prayer & Corporate Prayer)
    • Worship (Personal Worship & Corporate Worship)
    • Singing
    • Fellowship
    • Fasting (Personal Fasting & Corporate Fasting)
    • Evangelism & Missions
    • Giving (To the Ministries of the Church, the Needy, & Missions)
    • Service
    • Ordinances (Baptism & the Lord’s Supper)
    • Discipleship

As we discipline ourselves, in faith, to make use of these disciplines, we will progressively be conformed into the image of Jesus and find satisfaction in Jesus.

COVID-19 Presents Some Problems

With one cursory reading through the New Testament, you will realize that God’s Plan-A for spiritual growth and satisfaction in Christ is the local church. Most of the godly disciplines mentioned above take place in the local church:

    • Listening to the Word
    • Preaching & Teaching
    • Fellowship
    • Corporate Prayer
    • Corporate Fasting
    • Corporate Worship
    • Ordinances

This is why, when you see a Christian that is not faithfully involved in the life of a local church, they are spiritually immature and find very little satisfaction in Jesus. They are neglecting God’s Plan-A for spiritual growth and satisfaction in Jesus!

With that said, here is the problem that COVID-19 presents: Most churches, out of love for God and love for neighbor, are canceling services. These cancelations could last a couple weeks or they could possibly last for months. Nobody is really sure in light of the volatility of the situation. This means that most Christians are not going to be able to faithfully participate in the life of the local church. Thus, Christians are not going to be able to participate in God’s Plan-A for christian maturity and satisfaction in Christ.

A Spiritual Care Package

With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to create a spiritual care package that God might use to nourish our souls. So, rather than languishing spiritually during this time, this care package is meant to sustain your joy, contentment, and satisfaction in Christ. This care package will contain advise as well as specific recommendations.

First, consistently intake the Bible. At a time like this, it is tempting to have your face glued to your phone to catch the latest news article, tweet, or Facebook post about COVID-19. Resist that temptation and seek the Lord. Read through whole books of the Bible. Meditate on comforting truths from the Bible. Memorize sections of the Bible that you can share with others. Bible intake is, without a doubt, the chief means that God uses to both mature and satisfy His people.

Second, pray regularly. Make a weekly prayer guide to strategically pray for the following things:

    • those at high-risk in your local church body,
    • those that may feel lonely,
    • those entrusted to lead the church through this trying time,
    • those in your community,
    • those working in medical facilities,
    • those entrusted to lead our country,
    • those missionaries all over the world,
    • and unbelievers.

As you do this, you will bear the burdens of others. You will be petitioning a great King that has limitless resources to act on behalf of others!

Third, listen to good preaching. I do have one caveat here. Though there are a variety of godly pastors out there that are gifted preachers and teachers, be sure to listen to the specific pastor that God has entrusted to the care of your soul. He knows, loves, and cares for you a great deal. He is thinking about how to specifically shepherd you during this time. So listen to him. With that caveat out the way, here are some good sermons that have made a profound impact on Kahlie (my wife) and I personally:

Fourth, read good books written by good teachers. God has gifted the universal church with many godly men and women throughout the centuries that are gifted with writing. God has given them the ability to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) to pump out helpful literature for the church. Here are some books, none of which are academic, that have been helpful or encouraging in Kahlie and I’s life:

Fifth, listen and sing some hymns that were penned in troubled times throughout history. Matt Merker actually published an article of 25 hymns to sing. Each hymn has a link that takes you to a website where you can read the lyrics as well as listen to the song. Click on this link and find some hymns to joyfully sing to the Lord.

Sixth, serve the local church and the surrounding community. A global pandemic does not just hinder us as individuals. It hinders those around us. It hinders fellow members in our local church as well as fellow individuals in our community. Health care workers get exhausted, small business owners get anxious, and the elderly get concerned. In light of this, we are presented with some opportunities to serve. Here are some opportunities that I have been thinking through:

    • Offer to go get groceries for the elderly in your church
    • Offer to go get prescription medicine for the elderly in your church
    • Adopt a widow in your church and check up on her every 2-3 days
    • Give generously toward the benevolence fund at your local church
    • Order carry-out food or gift cards from local businesses in your area
    • Send encouraging texts or emails to those in your Sunday school class
    • Thank those who work in health care, the police department, grocery stores, etc.

Joy in Christ in the Midst of COVID-19

I am confident that if you, in faith, make use of this spiritual care package, then you will find joy and satisfaction in Jesus. In the midst of all the turmoil and volatility, you will be a well of living water that benefits and nourishes other people in these dark days.

Becoming an Evangelist

I would define evangelism as teaching the gospel to unbelievers with the aim of persuading them to repent of their sins and to believe in Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls. We are to do this type of evangelism with our family members, friends, enemies, acquaintances, and strangers. As Christians, we have an obligation to bear witness to the glorious work of Christ to a lost and dying world.

Even though most Christians have a sense of this obligation, evangelism is something that most Christians find notoriously difficult. With this in mind, I wanted to point out six things that we can do in order to become faithful evangelists.

1) Know the Bible

Evangelism is largely a teaching moment. Whether you are seeking to evangelize your kids, co-workers, acquaintances, or strangers, you are going to have to teach them about God, Christ, sin, judgment, righteousness, faith, repentance, forgiveness, etc. These are weighty theological topics that fall within core doctrines of the Christian faith: creation, anthropology, soteriology, eschatology, etc. And if you are going to evangelize, you are going to have to be able to teach these topics to non-Christians.

Before you get overwhelmed by what you just read, it is important to add that you don’t have to know all aspects of every one of these doctrines! You don’t have to have the best definition, explanation, or argumentation of all the terms that I mentioned above. In all honesty, you don’t even have to have the best presentation of these doctrines. Nevertheless, you should strive to be the best teacher that you can possibly be as you articulate these biblical truths to unbelievers.

Therefore, seek to know the Bible. Become well acquainted with the teachings of Scripture. Listen to good sermons when you have time. Ask knowledgeable people weighty questions and allow them to teach you. Memorize simple definitions of certain biblical terms like repentance, faith, justification, and reconciliation. This will equip you to teach biblical truths in winsome ways. Simply put, the more you know the Bible the better you will be at evangelism.

2) Be in Prayer

As a child of God, you have access to God’s throne. He is the King of the universe. Make petitions to Him. Make big petitions to Him. Request great things from Him. Ask Him to give you opportunities to speak about Christ. Ask Him to give you wisdom, boldness, and clarity as you teach people about Christ during evangelistic encounters. Ask Him to save those whom you have the opportunity to teach about Jesus. You must be in prayer for these things.

The importance of this is seen in the life of the apostle Paul. Paul asked the churches to whom he was writing to pray these types of prayers on his behalf. And trust me, if the apostle Paul needed the church to pray on his behalf in regard to some of these things, then we most certainly need to be praying for them!

We also need others praying for us. Get a couple of friends that you attend church with and begin praying for one another’s evangelistic efforts. After one of you has the opportunity to evangelize, be sure to encourage your friends by telling them that God was gracious in answering their prayers. If somebody you evangelize ends up confessing that Jesus is Lord, be sure to tell your friends. This will create a culture of evangelism that fosters encouragement and endurance.

3) Be Holy

Personal holiness is, by far, what is left out of most conversations when it comes to evangelism. This shouldn’t be the case! Our personal holiness is instrumental in our evangelistic efforts. As Christians, we are to be a distinct people. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we take orders from a King that reigns over all. In light of this, we are to be a people that are other-worldly.

We are to speak in a manner that reflects the goodness, graciousness, and compassion of our King. We are to live in accordance with our King’s ethic; being careful to walk in our King’s statutes. We are to look carefully at how we use our time, and we are to live such godly lives that those outside of Christ take notice. This is why, when it comes to personal witnessing, the Bible often assumes that we are going to be responding to unbelievers as they ask us questions.

You see, when we live in such a way that is consistent with biblical teaching, people are convicted. People begin to ask questions. When we answer their questions, our answers have credibility because it is backed up by a holy life. This means that, if we are going to be faithful evangelists, then we need to be holy evangelists.

4) Be a Conversationalist

Far too often we strive to get through our days seeking to have the least amount of meaningful conversations as possible. We go to work, do our job, participate in small talk, and then go home. We go to retail businesses, keep our conversations brief, and then head home. We go to family events, look at our watches, stay away from substantive conversations, and then get back in our cars. This is not good!

If we are going to be faithful evangelists, then we must change our conversation habits. We must become conversationalists. We need to be intentional in carrying conversations longer than 1-2 minutes. We need to ask questions that allow for further conversation. We also need to ask questions that intentionally guide the conversation to something substantive and helpful. If we want to do this, we’ll have to learn how to steer conversations beyond the shallow waters of everyday small talk and into the sea of meaningful discussions! If we can do this, then we will have many more opportunities to speak to people about Christ.

5) Take a Genuine Interest in People

If you have ever purchased a used car, then you know what it is like for an individual to ask you questions, seem friendly, talk with you, and laugh with you, all the while not caring a lick about you. This happened to me recently. Kahlie and I thought we had a new best friend. We were having a good time with this used car salesmen. Then, once I told him we weren’t interested in buying the car he was showing us (I had already told him in the beginning that I was not looking to buy a car that day), he completely shut down. His whole demeanor changed . . . . talk about awkward!

We, as Christians, cannot afford to be this way. We don’t merely want to have substantive conversations with people just so we can sneak the gospel in. Rather, we want to genuinely take an interest in people! With this in mind, spend time with people. Buy them lunch. Go out for coffee with them. Ask them how their family is doing. See if there is any way that you can serve them when they are going through a difficult season. Just be a friend to them. Simply and sincerely treat them as image bearers of God! And as we do this, we will have more and more opportunities to speak to them about Christ. Also, they will be much more inclined to listen to us.

6) Persevere

During my Christian walk, I have noticed that people are more likely to serve Christ when: 1) The task is relatively short and simple, 2) The fruit born from the task is quickly seen, and 3) The service opportunity will end with encouragement and affirmation.

Because of what I just mentioned about, most Christians do not evangelize. Evangelism is not short and simple. Evangelism takes time, and to engage somebody in a conversation about spiritual things is pretty difficult. And if that wasn’t bad enough, in evangelism, you rarely see fruit. You speak to people, you love them, you serve them, but you rarely see them come to faith in Christ. This can be debilitating. And here is the real kicker, the people you are talking to usually aren’t going to encourage or affirm you for what you’re doing! In all honesty, they’ll more than likely discourage you and disagree with what you are doing. They may even personally attack you.

Consequently, if we want to be faithful evangelists then we must persevere. We must persevere through the difficulty of evangelizing. We must persevere through the seasons of evangelism where we don’t see fruit. And lastly, we must persevere through the endless amount of times people will dislike us because of our evangelism. If we can persevere through all of these, then we will be faithful evangelists.

Conclusion

Though more could be said, I believe the six things mentioned above could help you become a faithful evangelist. Whether you are in high school, on a college campus, in the work place, parenting children, or in a retirement home, doing these six things in faith could help you live a faithful and fruitful evangelistic life that brings glory to God!

Eye for an Eye

I love The Sermon on the Mount. It opens up our eyes to the ethics of the Kingdom of God. It reveals to us what kind of people we ought to be as Spirit filled followers of Christ. And one section that I find particularly helpful is Matthew 5:38-42. This is the small section I want to focus on in this blog. Here is the passage in full:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

Let’s start with verse 38: 

Verse 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’”

As is common throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins with a quotation of the Old Testament Law. He quotes Exodus 21:23-25 where the Law said, “But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” And once again, as poor interpreters of the Bible, the Scribes and the Pharisees missed the Spirit of this particular law and created a simple, basic, and twisted interpretation of this law.

You see, they used this law in everyday life. If somebody does this to you then you are to do that to them. So, if they burn your house down, then you are to burn their house down. If they gouge your eye out, then you are to gouge their eye out. They pretty much used this Old Testament Law to enact personal vengeance on the one who did them wrong. This same misinterpretation is also seen with Donald Trump, for he did say that this was his favorite Bible verse….I digress though! 

In interpreting this Old Testament law this way, they missed the Spirit of it. God did not give this law so that we could bring about vengeance on the one who wronged us. Rather, He gave us this law to address and restrain man’s great, evil desire for retaliation.

You see, naturally, when somebody does something against us, we want to defend ourselves to the utmost. We want to retaliate. We want retribution. And we normally do not want to retaliate by inflicting the same harm on them as they did to us. Rather, we want to inflict more harm on them than they did to us.

For example, if somebody says something against you that is very offensive and hurtful, your natural desire is to either say something more hurtful, or possibly even to do something physically harmful, to them. This is that evil desire to retaliate, and it comes from a deep prideful desire to defend ourselves. I mean, how dare somebody wrong us (sarcasm emplied)!

With this in mind, this law seeks to restrain this evil desire that we have. It tells us that we must not carry out our fleshly desire for retaliation. We must not be so eager to defend ourselves that we move beyond legitimate retribution and into unjust actions.

The Scribes and the Pharisees were not thinking this way though. Christ, being a good interpreter of the Law and having the mind of God, is about to give us a proper understanding of the purpose of this particular law. And then, right after this, Christ is going to gives us an incredible teaching on how, when this law is interpreted rightly, it reveals that we should not be so eager to defend ourselves. Let’s look at verse 39.

Verse 39 “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

So Christ says that we are not to “Resist the one who is evil.” Which we can take to mean “do not oppose, or set yourself against an evil person.” Therefore, we are to accept the one who is evil. And then Christ is going to give us four examples of what this kingdom ethic looks like. He is going to show us what this practically looks like in different areas of life. He starts with this,“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Now, just to clarify quickly, Jesus is speaking about his disciples personally. He is not speaking about nations, capitol punishment, or wars. Also, he is not talking about defending yourself from a physical attack on your life. Nor he is talking about evading an attack on your life. He is simply teaching us how we ought to live as Christians when evil people wrong us.

With that said, a slap on the right cheek was regarded as one of the most insulting things in ancient Israel. It was a shameful thing to be slapped in the face. And Christ says that his people are not to retaliate, or oppose, those who insult and shame them. Rather, we are to turn our other cheek to them. We are to let them insult and shame us without opposition! Our Lord is the perfect example of this. If you want to apply this your life, then take Jesus as the example. 

It says in 1 Peter 2:23, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Christ was consistently reviled and mocked, but he never threatened those who reviled and mocked Him. Rather, He entrusted himself to God. Paul imitated Christ well in this regard. He says that he blesses those who revile him (1 Cor. 4:12).

Thus, as disciples, we turn away from the desire to retaliate. We turn away from the evil desire to defend ourselves. Rather, we entrust ourselves to God and bless those that are opposed to us. This is the first example that he gives. Now let’s look at verse 40 to see the second example that Jesus gives.

Verse 40 “And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

This has to do with legal rights. Within ancient Israel, if you wronged somebody then they would sue you in order to take your tunic. This was legal. However, it was illegal for someone to sue you for your cloak (Ex. 22:25-27).

And what Christ is saying here is that we are not to insist upon our legal rights. If you have done something wrong and that person sues you for your tunic, then do not insist on your individual legal rights by merely giving him your tunic. Go beyond what the legal law requires of you. Give him both your tunic and your cloak.

This teaching is beautifully illustrated in the life of Zacchaeus. Once Zacchaeus came to faith in Christ, he wanted to pay back those whom he wronged as a crooked tax collector. However, he didn’t want to simply give them the exact sum that he took from them. Rather, he gave them four times as much as he took from them (Luke 19:5-10)! He went beyond the legal obligation.

This is what we do as disciples of Christ. Those who are overly concerned about themselves will only meet the legal requirement that is placed on them. Those who live empowered by the Spirit will go further than the civil law would ever tell them to because they are followers of Christ. That is the second example that Christ gives. The next example is found in the following verse.

Verse 41 “And if anyone forces you to go with him one mile, go with him two miles.”

Here, Christ is telling us not to insist upon our civil rights. According to Roman law, if the Romans were going through a town, let’s say Capernaum, they could lawfully ask a citizen of Capernaum to carry some type of burden for a mile. When that mile was over, the citizen was free to return. Then the Romans would get another individual to carry it a mile.

So, with this in mind, Christ tells them not to merely do what was required of them as a citizen. Rather, they are to do more. If they ask you to fulfill your obligation by carrying a burden for one mile, carry that burden for two miles. Christ is simply getting at our selfishness, isn’t he? In our flesh we simply want to do what is required of us. Christ is bidding us here to die to the flesh and do more! That is the third example. The fourth and last example Christ gives us is found in verse 42.

Verse 42 “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

Here, Christ is speaking about personal possessions. His disciples are not to be a people that are selfish and stingy. We naturally, in our flesh, say, “I worked hard for this so why should I give it to you?” We say, “This is my money, this is my house, and this is my car.” We are so focused on ourselves that it keeps us from being generous and ready to share.

But as disciples, we are to be a generous people. We are not to insist upon our ownership of things. Rather, we are to be a people that freely give. This is what the early church was doing. Luke writes, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45).

Conclusion

Christ is challenging the popular interpretation of, “An eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.” In doing so, he is revealing that that law was actually established to restrain us from retaliating in harmful and extreme ways. Then he shows us what a good, pure, and righteous ethic is for citizens within His kingdom. He shows us that, as Spirit filled disciples, we are not to be a people that are vehemently committed to self. Rather, we are to be a selfless people. We do not insist on legitimate retribution, legal rights, civil rights, or our own possessions. We relinquish our rights for the sake of living a selfless life to the glory of God.