What is the Greater Condemnation? (Matthew 23:14)

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Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. (Matthew 23:14, NKJV) What is the “greater condemnation” Jesus spoke of? It must be something because it’s mentioned in three gospels – this one and Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47. But what is it? (Before you read on, why not try to answer this question for yourself?) Is Jesus saying there are degrees of judgment and that the Pharisees and hypocrites are going to get punished more than others? You might think so if you read his … [Read more...]

Who Would Be a Teacher? (James 3:1)

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Recently I read something that made me sad. It was a Facebook note penned by a noted Bible teacher and it went something like this: “I’m a teacher of the gospel, but you’re probably not a teacher, so best not to pretend you are because you could lead people astray.” This comment wasn’t addressed to me or anyone in particular, but it made me sad for two reasons: (1) We are all called to preach and teach the gospel, every single one of us (Mark 16:15; Heb 5:12), so don’t let anyone silence you just because you’re not as eloquent as the next guy. You have a story to tell – a God-written story … [Read more...]

The wrath of God has come upon them at last (1 Thess 2:16)

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In our ongoing series on the wrath of God, there is an important scripture we have not yet looked at. It’s this one: For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. … [Read more...]

Take Up Your Cross Daily (Luke 9:23)

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Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luk 9:23). What does it mean to take up your cross daily? I’m going to give you two interpretations and then you can choose. Interpretation #1: Jesus is preaching self-denial Following Christ is all about self-denial and going without. If you are not in the daily habit of denying your appetites and desires, you are not a real Christian. The more you deny your own needs and wants, the holier you’ll be. So fast everyday and you’ll be just like Jesus. But there's a problem with … [Read more...]

Does God Envy?

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A misunderstood God leads to a misguided faith. If you think God is insecure and constantly assessing you on your performance, you will be insecure yourself. You will be forever wondering whether you have done enough to please him. Some time ago I wrote that God loves us unconditionally, that contrary to what some scriptures say, God is not a jealous God. How dare I contradict the written word? Well, I’ve met the Living Word and I can tell you that Jesus is the very picture of love and grace. However, the concept of a jealous God is hard to shake. We’ve heard so many times that he loves … [Read more...]

Exodus 4:24-25

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“Why did God try to kill Moses on the way to Egypt?” This question was recently put to me by a reader and it is based on the following passage: At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. (Exo 4:24-25) This is a stunning interruption to the narrative. One moment God is calling Moses towards his destiny as Israel’s deliverer; the next moment God is trying to kill him because he neglected to “snip the tip”! It’s … [Read more...]

Is 1 John 1 for Believers or Unbelievers?

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“Why do you assume that the first chapter of first John is addressed to unbelievers?” This question was put to me by a friend after reading my recent post on 1 John 1:9. Judging by some of the comments that have come up in various discussion threads, it’s a question many of you are asking: -    How can you say that an epistle clearly written for churches was meant for sinners? -    Aren’t you treading on thin ice when you carve up the Bible saying, “That bit’s not for me”? -    Aren’t we supposed to heed the whole counsel of God? These are all excellent questions and I will try to … [Read more...]

Do NIV Readers Have a Sinful Nature?

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Here are two verses that seem to say contradictory things about our sinful nature: 1. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, (Col 2:11) 2. So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Rm 7:25b) Do you see the problem? In the first verse Paul says our sinful nature has been circumcised by Christ. His sinful nature is gone. But in the second verse he admits that he still has a sinful nature, one that keeps … [Read more...]

What Happens to Unfruitful Branches?

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Jesus said, “if you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). In the hands of a religious person this becomes a conditional statement: You have to keep the commands of Jesus to prove your love. The problem with that, however, is the commands of Jesus are impossible to keep. As we saw in our last post, Jesus said anyone who keeps His commands, “will do what I have been doing and even greater things.” Well Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead. Can you? On your own it’s impossible, but that’s okay because you know what? Jesus has a plan. In the very next verse He begins to tell us what it … [Read more...]

Is God a Jealous God?

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“You shall not make for yourself an idol… You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Ex 20:4-6) In my last post I presented seven pieces of evidence proving that God’s love for us is unconditional. How, then, are we to account for those scriptures that say things like “God loves those who fear him” and “God loves those who keep his commands”? What … [Read more...]

Chop Off Your Hand?! Was Jesus Serious?

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“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Mt 5:29-30) I doubt there’s a Christian alive who hasn’t been troubled by this verse at some point in their lives. It’s one of those things you read that causes you to do a double-take. What?! Did Jesus really say that? Was He serious? I’d better ask the … [Read more...]

Who Killed Herod?

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In the past week numerous websites have sprung up declaring that Christchurch’s recent earthquake was God punishing the city for its sin. But as I explained in an earlier post, God’s remedy for sin is not earthquakes, hurricanes or terrorism. God dealt with all our sin at the cross. If God used natural disasters to judge cities, that would be like saying that the cross was an insufficient remedy for sin. Sin is destructive, but it won’t lead to a holy smiting. God is done with sin (1 Pe 4:1). The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him (Is 53:5). The only sin that’ll send you to hell is … [Read more...]