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Matthew 6:11-15 NET

11 Give us today our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 14 “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.

When our Lord taught his disciples to pray, he packed his instructions with information about forgiveness. He knows that for us, the two ideas are inseparable. Maybe that is why people nowadays have such a hard time maintaining a consistent prayer life. Maybe it is not that we don’t know how to pray. Maybe our problem is that lack of forgiveness is keeping us from praying.

Today I want to look at this text to see if we can get a better grip on the relationship between prayer and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is something every Christian regularly needs (11-12a)

The Lord told his apostles to ask for two things on a regular daily basis: food to sustain them physically and forgiveness to revive them spiritually. Now, this is odd, because most of us are used to thinking about forgiveness as something that we got when we first came to Christ. In fact, our testimony is that we were sinners, and we repented, and God forgave us of all our sins. All our sins were nailed on the cross with Jesus. God has separated us from those sins as far as the east is from the west.

So, why does Jesus tell his apostles to come to their heavenly Father and ask for forgiveness every day? That is not a mistake. Jesus knows that each of us is going to fail in our attempt to walk the straight and narrow. We are going to need forgiveness therapy on a regular basis.

The cross has made it possible for us to enter the narrow way and guarantees us an inheritance of eternal life when Jesus returns. But God does not want to leave us to figure out the Christian walk all by ourselves. He wants to stand by us as we take our baby steps. He wants to be there for us every time we fall. He’s not going to make us fall, but he’s going to be there to pick us up every time we do fall. That is why he commands us to pray for forgiveness regularly.

N.T. Wright says that this verse “assumes that we will need to ask for forgiveness not on one or two rare occasions but very regularly. This is a sobering thought, but it is matched by the comforting news that forgiveness is freely available as often as we need it” (60).

David Turner says that the word ἐπιούσιος in 6:11 refers to “immediate day-to-day necessities rather than long-term luxuries” (188).

Jesus also knows that we will be tempted to try to live the Christian life without the Father’s help. We think that Jesus went to the cross for our salvation, but that he has left Christian living up to us. That is wrong thinking and trying to live the Christian life without regular forgiveness therapy leads to disaster.

Part of our problem is that we do not like to be reminded of our failures. It is much easier to ignore the things that we have done that need forgiveness. We don’t want to dwell on our mistakes. So, we tell ourselves that it is all covered in the blood and just try to forget it. But if we fail to deal with today’s mistakes, we are going to repeat those mistakes tomorrow. Jesus does not want us to get caught up in a cycle of failure. He has opened a window in heaven for us, so that we have access to the Father’s forgiveness, as often as we need it.

We need that regular forgiveness because every time we stumble, we are not just hurting ourselves, or other people. The most important relationship we all have is with our creator. He is our heavenly Father. The relationship we have with him is the most important relationship we will ever have. Reconciliation with him is not something we can do just once.

When I go to the grocery store and buy bread, I usually buy enough for the whole week. But I cannot wait a whole week to reconcile with God. I can survive a week between meetings of congregational worship. But I cannot put off my time at the throne room. That has to be regular.

Prayer can also keep us from failing others (13).

Prayer therapy is not only necessary to heal our damaged relationship with God. It is also necessary to prevent us from falling as we go about the day’s walk. Prayer can strengthen us. Some of that strength will be given to us so that we can have a more appropriate relationship with others.

I think this is what Jesus had in mind when he instructed his apostles to pray for God to protect them from temptation. We have been studying the book of James in our Sunday evening Bible study times. Last Sunday we read that “each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15). James taught that temptation happens when desires inside us are allowed to lure us away from healthy actions and produce unhealthy actions. We need guidance from God so that we can stay away from temptation.

Warren Wiersbe says that “In this petition, we are asking God to guide us so that we will not get out of His will and get involved in a situation of temptation”(44).

If we don’t regularly go to God in prayer for that guidance, we will not only make mistakes that hurt others, we will keep making those same mistakes over and over again. A prayer is a tool for us to repair the damage that we have done, and to prevent us from making things worse and worse.

Turner says that “When disciples pray for protection from temptation to sin, they pray for God to break the cycle that so often plagues them (cf. Josh. 7:20-21; James 1:13-15). Temptation leads to sin, and sin leads to the necessity of praying for forgiveness. Prayer for protection from temptation and deliverance from the evil one’s strategies breaks the cycle (cf. Matt. 4:1-11)” (189).

There is also a third relationship that we have to keep in mind. Jesus instructed his apostles to pray for deliverance from the evil one. The devil wants to ruin our lives. He wants us to keep failing God and each other. He is going to bring trials and temptations and stumbling blocks into our lives because he wants to prevent us from having victory.

Folks, we need to take the devil seriously. He takes us seriously. He spends a lot of time trying to discourage us and thwart our efforts. He is stronger than we are. But he is not stronger than our heavenly Father is. We need to pray for protection from and deliverance from the devil every day.

Senior says that “Both words, “test” (πειρασμός) and “evil” or “evil one” (πονηρός), have a strong eschatological flavor referring to the ultimate test of the final days and the assault of the demonic, but can also be attached to those incursions of threat and evil in the present age, which are, in a sense, anticipations of the final test” (86).

Forgiving others keeps the prayer channel open (12b, 14-15).

Jesus also commanded his apostles to specifically use their prayer time to declare forgiveness for everyone who has wronged them. In fact, he told them that this kind of forgiveness therapy is absolutely essential if the other kind of forgiveness therapy is going to work.

Remember, our problem is that we fail God and other people all the time. We have to regularly come to God for forgiveness. But Jesus said that there is something that can stop the flow of that healing. If we refuse to forgive others for the wrongs they have committed against us, then when we come to the throne room, we will get a busy signal.

The reason this happens is that one of our primary responsibilities as Christians is to represent God and his kingdom. The minute we stop forgiving those who have wronged us, we stop representing God. It is a sin to fail to forgive. It is a major sin.

It is like a person who was arrested for speeding and who argued that he should be let go because he was not speeding in this county because he was in the neighboring county robbing a bank at the time. They’re not going to let him go. They’re going to send him to that other county to stand trial.

But the good news is, it works the other way, too. When we come to the throne room of God and he forgives us, it makes it easier for us to forgive those who fail us. That is how forgiveness therapy is supposed to work. The purity and healthiness that we feel when we know we have been forgiven by God can empower us to extend that same forgiveness.

But what happens when we refuse to forgive? Jesus told a parable about a slave that had been forgiven a huge debt – ten thousand talents, but then he found someone who owed him a much smaller sum – a hundred silver coins, and he threw him into prison. When the master found out about it, he sent that slave to prison to be tortured. Jesus told his listeners “So also my heavenly Father will do to you if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

Leigh Ann Powers writes, “Sometimes people have a false understanding of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean being a doormat for others’ mistreatment. Forgiveness means relinquishing the right to our own vengeance and leaving justice with God. Forgiveness is a refusal to hold others’ sins against them and coming to that place where we desire God’s will for them — whatever that may be. When we, as God’s people, experience God’s forgiveness, God empowers us through his Spirit to extend forgiveness to others” (Younger,79).

As Turner puts it, “a forgiven person is a forgiving person” (189).

Jesus is telling us something very important here. Forgiveness therapy is available for us. We can come regularly to the throne room of heaven and confess our failures to God, and he will forgive us – clean slate forgiveness. There are some things that we can do that will stop forgiveness therapy from working. We can stop living like our heavenly Father. We can keep a grudge against those who wrong us. We can plot to get even. We can choose to ignore or ostracize those who offend us.

Living a life like that is its own prison. Forget about bringing others to Christ. Forget about having a victorious walk. When you are stuck in a lack of forgiveness, you become a liability to the kingdom. Don’t stay there. Go back to the throne room and confess the sin of failing to forgive. Forgive completely, not because they ask for it, not even because they deserve it, but because you cannot function without it. You have to forgive. Give it over to God. Set yourself free to live a Christian life.

Notice the sequence of Jesus’ commands here. He first tells us to pray for forgiveness of our debts. Within that prayer is a promise that we will reciprocate by forgiving others for what they owe us. If we first come to God praying about our problems with others, we are failing to obey Jesus.

For example, suppose I go to the Lord in prayer tomorrow morning, and say ‘Lord, Joe is a problem for me, I want you to fix him.’ But the Lord responds to my prayer and says, ‘I was just talking to Joe last night. He said ‘Lord, Jeff is a problem for me, I want you to fix him.’ Who should I fix first?

According to today’s text, I should not go to the Lord with my problems until I have already received forgiveness for being someone else’s problem. Then I am free to forgive those who are a problem for me. Every time I go to the throne room, I should leave reconciled with God and my neighbor. Prayer is the place to get free from debt, and it is also the place to set other people free.


Senior, Donald. Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: Matthew. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011.

Turner, David L. Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.

Wiersbe, Warren W. Meet Your King. Wheaton, Ill: Victor Books, 1980.

Wright, N T. Matthew for Everyone: Chapters 1-15. London: SPCK, 2004.

Younger, Carol D. The Gospel of Matthew: Hope in the Resurrected Christ: Adult Bible Study Guide. Dallas, Tex: BaptistWay Press, 2008.

20220925 PRAYER AND FORGIVENESS – jeffersonvann.mp3


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Luke 6:27-36 NET

27 “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
29 To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either.
30 Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away.
31 Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.
34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full.
35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people.
36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Before we get to examining today’s text I want to remind you of the picture we need to see in our minds in order to understand why Jesus preached the sermon from which this text is extracted. He had just been praying on a mountain, and then he gathered his disciples to himself and appointed twelve who were going to be his apostles. The sermon was directed to the twelve as representatives of his mission to reach all the people with the message of his coming kingdom. The sermon was not a new law for the world to follow. It was missionary training for the apostles. The purpose of the message was not to get the apostles saved. The purpose was to equip them to get other people saved.

Jesus commands his apostles to GO BEYOND their enemies’ expectations (27-28).

The NET Study Bible notes for these verses say “Love your enemies is the first of four short exhortations that call for an unusual response to those who are persecuting disciples.” That means that instead of one command, there are actually four — or at least four different ways of obeying this command. Those exhortations are:

LOVE your enemies,

Barclay says of this command, “We cannot love our enemies as we love our nearest and dearest. To do so would be unnatural, impossible, and even wrong. But we can see to it that, no matter what a man does to us, even if he insults, ill-treats, and injures us, we will seek nothing but his highest good. One thing emerges from this. The love we bear for our dear ones is something we cannot help. We speak of falling in love; it is something that happens to us. But this love towards our enemies is not only something of the heart; it is something of the will. It is something which by the grace of Christ we will ourselves to do” (76).

McDonald says that this choice to love is our secret weapon. He says “This will be one of (the apostles’) most effective weapons in evangelizing the world. When Jesus speaks of love, He is not referring to human emotion. This is supernatural love. Only those who are born again can know it or display it. It is utterly impossible for anyone who does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. A murderer may love his own children, but that is not love as Jesus intended. One is human affection; the other is divine love. The first requires only physical life; the second requires divine life. The first is largely a matter of emotions; the second is largely a matter of the will. Anyone can love his friends, but it takes supernatural power to love his enemies. And that is the love (Greek—agape) of the New Testament. It means to do good to those who hate you, to bless those who curse you, to pray for those who are nasty to you, and ever and always to turn the other cheek. … This love is unbeatable. The world can usually conquer the man who fights back. It is used to jungle warfare and to the principle of retaliation. But it does not know how to deal with someone who repays every wrong with kindness. It is utterly confused and disorganized by such other-worldly behavior” (43).

DO GOOD to those who hate you,

Jesus later told his followers “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will have some of you put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of my name” (Luke 21:16-17). So this amounts to a command to love everyone.

BLESS those who curse you,

Gooding suggests that sonship is “the key to Christ’s moral teaching” (121). Jesus is suggesting that the apostles will be cursed by many who they will try to reach. Instead of cursing back in retaliation, they should bless the people who curse them.

PRAY FOR those who mistreat you.

Our Lord Jesus himself prayed for those who nailed him to the cross.

Our enemies expect us to hate them, but we should love them instead.
Our enemies expect us to do harm to them, but we should do good to them instead.
Our enemies expect us to curse them, but we should bless them instead.
Our enemies expect us to mistreat them, but we should pray for them instead.

Craddock says that “Following the statement of principle are numerous examples of forms of mistreatment: hating, cursing, abusing, striking, stealing, begging (pressuring one’s sense of compassion). Two observations are in order. First, the teachings assume that the listeners are victims, not victimizers. Jesus offered no instruction on what to do after striking, stealing, hating, cursing, and abusing others” (89). There are some things that are going to happen when these apostles set off on their evangelistic campaigns. They should expect mistreatment and abuse.

Jesus warns his apostles that obeying him will make them vulnerable to VIOLENT REJECTION (29a).

Someone who strikes me on the side of my face is saying “No, and I mean no.” They are sick to death of me trying to witness to them. They have had enough of my preaching. My temptation will be to say, Okay, I’ll just go on to the next person. But what would happen if I resisted that temptation? What would happen in the heart of that person if I said, “Okay, beat on the other side of my face if you want to, but I have good news to tell, and I’m going to tell it”?

That is persistence. But if someone is drowning, it takes a brave person to jump into the deep water to try to save him. He might pull me down with him. But it’s life or death for that drowning victim. Love jumps in.

Jesus warns his apostles that obeying him will make them vulnerable to UNFAIR LOSS (29b).

You might lose your overcoat. Are you prepared to risk your suitcoat as well? There will be some unfair things that will happen to you if you dare to bear witness to others. Safety is for those who will never enjoy the harvest.

Jesus warns his apostles that obeying him will test their GENEROSITY (30).

We all like to manage our debts — to always know we will have enough. So, we choose carefully those to whom we will lend. But Jesus is calling on us to risk loss for the sake of his name. He’s not asking us to risk for our own benefit. He doesn’t want us to throw our money away. He isn’t telling us to invest in the lottery in the hopes of striking it rich. He’s telling us to invest in lost people as a witness to the generosity that is in us because of who our heavenly Father is.

Jesus commands his apostles to treat their enemies according to their POTENTIAL (31).

He says to “Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.” The apostles were once have-nots, now they have life in Christ. All their enemies are potential brothers and sisters because they have the potential to come to Christ as well. It is impossible to truly love an enemy, but it is possible to love someone into becoming your friend. That is what love does. “God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God chose to love us — his enemies — and then we became his friends.

Jesus warns his apostles not to NARROW THE SCOPE of their love (32-34).

He said “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full.” Sinners choose to narrow the scope of their love. They decide they will love those who are related to them, those who treat them right, those who are of the same race as them, or those who root for the same team as them.

But Jesus warned his apostles that if they wanted to reach people for the kingdom, they could not afford to narrow the scope of their love. They had to stretch out their love so that it reached people outside of their comfort zones.

Jesus explains two benefits of obeying this command: HARVEST and GODLINESS (35-36).

One of these benefits is HARVEST. Jesus calls it a great reward. I used to think Jesus was talking about our reward at his coming. But the context (remember) is that Jesus is coaching the apostles to bring people to him. In that context, the great reward will be lots of people won to Christ.

Harvest takes hard work. Penny and have been enjoying a good harvest in our garden this year. But we have paid for that harvest by investing time and effort in pulling weeds, working the soil, fertilizing, watering, and processing what grows. Loving our enemies is the hard work of kingdom living. The reward of that hard work is a great harvest of new believers. Some of those enemies are going to become friends and brothers and sisters.

The second benefit that Jesus mentioned is that Loving our enemies makes us more like our heavenly Father. Godliness does not come from saying that we love them. It comes from showing that we love them. It is a supernatural act. It is Christ demonstrating his love through us.

So, the challenge today — if we choose to accept it — is to do something we cannot do for people we cannot stand so that God can accomplish the impossible. In Matthew’s version of this text, Jesus puts it this way: “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). That is not just hard, it is impossible. But Jesus never gave us a challenge that he did not equip us with the power to accomplish. Let’s go love our enemies, y’all.

Barclay, William. The Gospel of Luke. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1997.

Craddock, Fred B. Luke, 2009.

Gooding, David W. According to Luke: A New Exposition of the Third Gospel, 1988.

MacDonald, William. The Gospel of Luke. Dubuque, IA: Emmaus Correspondence School, 2011.



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“But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you” (1 Peter 3:15-16 NET).

Today I want to talk about witnessing. The apostle Peter told his readers that they should always be ready to “give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope (they) possess. I know some Christians who are always ready to give an answer, but unfortunately, it is the wrong answer. What many in our churches say when they have an opportunity to testify is biblically embarrassing.

Here is a popular but wrong answer: “I’m a good person and I come from a good family, so I know I am saved.”

I don’t know anyone who has actually said it that way, but I get the impression from a lot of people that they are depending on their own decency and niceness to count for them on judgment day. We know that is the wrong answer because if any of us was nice enough to make it by our own goodness, then Jesus would not have had to die on the cross. The fact is, even the goodness of the best of us is ugly, corrupt, and sinful. Isaiah was talking about his own nation — God’s chosen people — when he said “We are all like one who is unclean, all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight” (Isaiah 64:6 NET). Brother, if you are trusting in your own goodness, you are still in your sins. You might be a good person in the world’s eyes, but God’s eyes see deeper and clearer.

Here is another popular but wrong answer: “I have an immortal soul, and I know it is going to heaven when I die.”

That kind of statement is very popular but it is full of wrong answers. If we have souls, they are not immortal, because only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:16). The Bible never calls believers immortal on this side of the resurrection. It is at the resurrection that the apostle Paul says we will put on our immortality (1 Corinthians 15:51-53). Before the resurrection, we are just as mortal as the pigs and chickens.

Another wrong answer from that statement has to do with the expectation of going to heaven. The Bible says that “No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven — the Son of Man” (John 3:13). Jesus did not promise to take us to heaven. He promised to come back and take us to where he will be — and that’s not the same thing. Jesus is coming back to earth to reign as its king. I don’t know about you, but I want to be where Jesus is. If he’s not going to be in heaven when he returns, then I don’t want to be there either.

The third thing wrong about that statement is that it suggests that the goal is to go somewhere when we die. People do go somewhere when they die, but it is not heaven. In the Old Testament, the place that people went when they died was identified by the Hebrew word Sheol (שְׁאוֹל). It is the intermediate state where people wait in an unconscious state until the resurrection. The New Testament equivalent is the Greek word Hades (ᾅδης). Even Jesus went to Hades when he died, and was raised from it on Easter Sunday. That is the only place in scripture that anyone goes when they die. It is described in scripture as a dark, silent place. No one ever wants to go there but everyone eventually does. The best thing about Sheol/Hades is that it is temporary. The hope of the believer is not to go there but to be raised to live again.

The right answer begins with Jesus

The right answer has to be Christocentric. Grudem says that this passage is “preparation for active witness which will win the unbeliever to Christ” (153). It focuses on Jesus, not us. It’s not about who you are or where you are going to go. It’s about who Jesus is — what he has done, and what he is going to do. Our text tells us to “set Christ apart as Lord in (our) hearts.” There is only room in your heart for one Lord. Your job cannot be Lord. Your family cannot be Lord. Even your church or your pastor cannot be Lord. Before we come to Christ, we already have a lord set up on the throne of our hearts. His name is self. Surrendering to the Lordship of Christ means dethroning self. The Bible calls this repentance. Jesus commanded everyone to repent. He said “”The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!” (Mark 1:15). If the kingdom is near, that means the king is near. Jesus is the king. There is only room on the throne for one king. That means we need to get our hearts tuned in to who is actually on the throne.

Another reason that the right answer begins with Jesus is that he is the Savior, and you are not. You might be able to save people from a lot of things, but you are not qualified to save them from their sins, and neither am I. The angel Gabriel told Mary to name her son Jesus. It means Savior. The angel told the shepherds of Bethlehem “Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

If we are serious about giving people the right answer, then we need to be telling them about Jesus: who he is, what he has done for us on the cross, and what he is going to do when he returns to earth. It’s not about us, it’s about the Savior.

The right answer explains the blessed hope.

Peter said to “set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.” The Bible identifies only one blessed hope. It is “our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). If you have to talk about heaven, talk about Jesus coming back from heaven. That’s the blessed hope.

We have never needed hope more than we need it right now. But we are used to using that word to describe what we want. For many, hope is wishful thinking. “I hope it doesn’t rain.” “I hope I get a better job.” “I hope my team wins.” Biblical hope is not wishing for what might happen. Biblical hope is confidently expecting what will happen.

The Bible tells us that the world as we know it today is going to be violently disrupted by the sudden, cataclysmic return of its rightful king. He’s going to set everything right and make everything new. He is going to judge the living and the dead. He is going to destroy the wicked, soul and body, in Gehenna hell. He is going to create a new heaven and a new earth where only righteousness dwells. He has invited us to be part of that new creation. That is the hope that we possess!

But giving the right answer needs to be accompanied by the right attitude.

Peter said to share our hope “with courtesy and respect.” Best says that if the readers really revere God, it should show in their attitude to others. He says “If before him they are genuinely humble they will not be aggressive toward others” (134). Those who do not share our faith in Christ are not going to be won to the gospel if we cannot share it without condemning them and their philosophies. Arrogance and pride have no place in the testimony of a believer. Paul told the Colossians to let their “speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that (they) may know how (they) should answer everyone (4:6). You can share the gospel without telling people that they are sinners. You shouldn’t tell them that they are not sinners, but you can concentrate on how good Jesus is instead of just telling them how bad they are. News flash: Everybody knows that things are not as they should be. The gospel is about how Jesus is going to change that. That is good news. We are sent to share that good news. There is an appropriate diplomatic decorum that we should follow. Part of that decorum is a courteous and respectful attitude toward everyone we share the gospel with.

The context of today’s passage is suffering as a believer. Peter tells his readers that they should witness not just when things are going right, but also keep giving people the right answer when they are suffering. Harrel talks about maintaining a policy of good works. He argues that “If the Lord is pleased by the gracious lives of his people, then men made in his image should also appreciate and be pleased by the good works done by the godly” (95).

Giving the right answer is not always going to make people into our friends.

Peter tells his readers that they are going to have enemies who criticize their good conduct and accuse them of all kinds of crimes. If they seek your good attitude, they may change their mind about your faith. But as Elliott points out “the possibility is expressed that the slanderers could also persist in disparaging the good conduct of Christians” (630). Our Lord himself predicted that we “will be hated by all the nations because of (his) name” (Matthew 24:9). That includes the nation that you and I live in. There are going to be some who hate you just because of what you believe and teach. You can give the right answer and it will just make them angrier at you. But Peter still says “always be ready to give an answer” to them.

Jesus told us that we are the light of the world. But he warned us against hiding our light under a basket. When I was in the army, they trained us on the importance of proper light discipline. There were times when darkness was our friend because you cannot shoot an enemy that you cannot see.

Sometimes we are afraid of shining our light because it makes us an easier target. It is so much easier when people do not know what we believe. But our instruction today is that we always need to have our lights on. The good news is for sharing, even if it makes us a target.

LORD, you have called us to be witnesses of your coming kingdom. You have empowered us with your Holy Spirit to enable us to give an answer to anyone who asks us about the hope that we have. That blessed hope of your soon coming in glory to take your rightful place as king is a hope worth sharing, even if it makes enemies. Give us the courage to have a biblical answer and to always be ready to share it.

Best, Ernest E. I Peter: Based on the Revised Standard Version. London: Oliphants, 1971

Elliott, John H. 1 Peter: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, 2000.

Grudem, Wayne A. 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007.

Harrell, William W. Let’s Study 1 Peter. Edinburgh [Scotland: Banner of Truth Trust, 2004.



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Psalms 19:1-14 NET

1     The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork. 2 Day after day it speaks out; night after night it reveals his greatness. 3 There is no actual speech or word, nor is its voice literally heard. 4 Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth; its words carry to the distant horizon. In the sky he has pitched a tent for the sun. 5 Like a bridegroom it emerges from its chamber; like a strong man it enjoys running its course. 6 It emerges from the distant horizon, and goes from one end of the sky to the other; nothing can escape its heat. 7 The law of the LORD is perfect and preserves one’s life. The rules set down by the LORD are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced. 8 The LORD’s precepts are fair and make one joyful. The LORD’s commands are pure and give insight for life. 9 The commands to fear the LORD are right and endure forever. The judgments given by the LORD are trustworthy and absolutely just. 10 They are of greater value than gold, than even a great amount of pure gold; they bring greater delight than honey than even the sweetest honey from a honeycomb. 11 Yes, your servant finds moral guidance there; those who obey them receive a rich reward. 12 Who can know all his errors? Please do not punish me for sins I am unaware of. 13 Moreover, keep me from committing flagrant sins; do not allow such sins to control me. Then I will be blameless, and innocent of blatant rebellion. 14 May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my sheltering rock and my redeemer.

          The author of Hebrews began his epistle with the words “at many times and in many ways, God spoke…” (Heb. 1:1), reminding his readers that supernatural revelation is not a rare commodity.  Jewish Christians in the first century are not the only ones who need to be reminded that such revelation exists.  People nowadays are very good at convincing themselves that it is impossible to know if God is real. The evidence that God has revealed himself is abundant, and that is what this psalm is about.

God has revealed himself by his creation (1-6)

1     The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork. 2 Day after day it speaks out; night after night it reveals his greatness. 3 There is no actual speech or word, nor is its voice literally heard. 4 Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth; its words carry to the distant horizon. In the sky he has pitched a tent for the sun. 5 Like a bridegroom it emerges from its chamber; like a strong man, it enjoys running its course. 6 It emerges from the distant horizon, and goes from one end of the sky to the other; nothing can escape its heat.  

At first glance, you might think this psalm is contradicting itself. It talks about the sky pouring speaking out in verse two, but then it says there is no actual speech and no word in verse three. You cannot catch that in some translations, because they add a word or two to make it say something else. What the psalmist is actually saying is that the universe around him does not need any words to explain itself. Its existence is constantly revealing the existence and glory of its creator.

God revealed his existence and character through the universe he created. The passage speaks of the universe as a constant light and picture show displaying how glorious God is. Paul asserts that unbelievers are not excused for rejecting God since “his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20).  This is the evidence of CREATION, but people often label it EVOLUTION, a term that suggests no need for an explanation beyond what is to explain what is.

Looking closely at the evidence in this box you will find a universe that has an origin that cannot be explained adequately through the powers and processes that currently exist.  Science has suggested some “big bang” happened billions of years ago to account for the present universe. But science also predicts that the current universe will eventually be destroyed because there is no power available within it to preserve it.  However, many scientists acknowledge an anthropocentric aspect to reality. That is, the universe seems to be designed for a purpose, and humanity seems to be central to that purpose. The universe also seems to contain sources of power that are not always apparent.

God is a Puzzle Maker

If I dare to assume that creation is displaying evidence of its creator, I can draw conclusions about the nature of the creator from a reasoned look at creation. For example, the universe can be categorized as a combination of systems, each of which has a definite structure. There are star systems in space, climate, geological and ecological systems on the planet, and circulatory, pulmonary, and digestive systems among creatures. The existence of these systems suggests an intelligent designer who enjoys artistically producing unity from diverse objects. It is almost as if every system is a puzzle, and God is encouraging people to search for patterns so that we can understand the systems as a whole. Science is our attempt at putting together the pieces of the puzzles. If there were no order to the systems – that is, if everything was random chaos – the universe would be impossible to figure out, and that would lead to an altogether different view of God.

God has a Purpose for Everything

The unity that God builds into all these interlocking systems is a unity of purpose. The systems work together to foster and sustain life, reveal God’s craftsmanship in the master design, and promote more unity-in-diversity.

Everything has a purpose. We make mistakes when we use things for the wrong purpose. Children of God learn that everything that happens to us is allowed by God to benefit us in some way.  So Joseph told his brothers who had sold him into slavery ion Egypt: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20). Paul told the Romans that “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Seeing God at work in the difficulties we face is not always easy. That is why David encouraged his soul not to forget all of God’s benefits (Psalm 103:2). Each of these texts points to the fact that God is at work in the universe all around us orchestrating it for his own purpose.

I want to invite you to see if I am right about this. Pick a corner of God’s universe — just one system. It doesn’t matter which one. Maybe you want to study the sky. Maybe you want to study the land all around us, the trees, or animals, or human nature. If you look for the daily speech without words, you will find it pouring forth.

God has revealed himself by his word (7-11)

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and preserves one’s life. The rules set down by the LORD are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced. 8 The LORD’s precepts are fair and make one joyful. The LORD’s commands are pure and give insight for life. 9 The commands to fear the LORD are right and endure forever. The judgments given by the LORD are trustworthy and absolutely just. 10 They are of greater value than gold, than even a great amount of pure gold; they bring greater delight than honey, than even the sweetest honey from a honeycomb. 11 Yes, your servant finds moral guidance there; those who obey them receive a rich reward.      

By his word I mean his written word, the sixty six books of the Holy Bible. God revealed his standards, his desires and his plan through the scriptures.  God is our father. As a father, he wants us to do more than just acknowledge his existence. He wants us to follow his instructions. That is why deism, theism, or unitarianism will never please God. It is not enough to admit that he does (or might) exist. He is our father, and we must acknowledge that relationship through obedience. The Bible is God’s way of showing us what he wants – how we can obey him and please him.

The Bible is God’s witness to himself.” This truth serves as a foundation for all talk about revelation.  Biblical theology assumes that the author of Hebrews is right – that God has revealed himself. So a believer does not have to begin where an unbeliever does. Instead, a biblical theologian starts with affirming what the Bible says about itself, and then invites unbelievers, skeptics and atheists to evaluate the truthfulness of the statements.

The Bible teaches four things about itself.

  • Scripture is God’s word, so it speaks with God’s authority.
  • Scripture is sufficient to do what God wants it to do.
  • Scripture is as clear as it needs to be.
  • Scripture cannot be broken. When rightly understood, it is infallible.

Each of these qualities describes scripture because each faithfully describes the source of scripture: God himself.  He is the ultimate authority, having no superior from which his authority could derive. He is entirely self-sufficient, having no need for any other for fulfillment. His words and thoughts are completely clear to himself (in spite of the difficulty humans often have understanding them).  His words cannot be broken because the truth they reveal does not change, or go out of style. He is dependable.  Therefore the best thing anyone can say about scripture is not a negative statement (like “inerrant,” or “infallible,”) but a positive one.  Scripture is from God.

Scripture records the incidents when “God showed himself. He let himself be heard. He disclosed his presence. He revealed who he is. He made known his name. Today we may wonder why God chose to do so thousands of years ago to the fathers and prophets and apostles. We may question the wisdom of embedding the most important truth the world has ever heard in a collection of ancient Jewish stories. But we cannot deny that the revelation has happened. Even if we set aside the internal evidence presented in the scriptures themselves, we are overwhelmed by the impact that these Jewish stories have had on the planet.

What amazes me is that the Bible is so large. A few years ago, I decided to make an electronic scripture index of myself. It involved making folders on my computer and putting links in those folders to everything that I have written online — by chapter and verse. Apparently, not a lot of people do that because I couldn’t find an easy way to do it. So, I did it the hard way. I had to create a folder for each verse of the Bible! Just the New Testament alone has 260 chapters and 7,956 verses. The Old Testament has 929 chapters, with 23,208 verses. So, altogether, that’s 1,189 chapters with 31,164 verses. It took me about a month just to make the folders, and another month to file everything in them.

A few years ago, I realized that even though I had been a Bible college professor, I had been pretty lazy about studying the Bible on a regular basis. The Lord wanted me to read and study the Bible daily. When I first started, I was too lazy even to read a passage every day. So, I found a place online where someone would read a passage for me. I followed that site through the whole Bible in a modern version, for a year. By then, I was ready to read for myself, so I went through the Bible in three years in another modern version, and I wrote a short commentary every day.

When I finished that project a few years ago, I asked the Lord what he wanted me to do. He said, “translate.” I am translating the Bible from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. I do just a few verses a day. I’m starting to believe I can really finish this project. So far, I have just over 40 books translated. But the New Testament alone has 184,590 words in it (in English). The Old Testament has 622,771 words. So, altogether, that’s 807,361 words.  It’s going to take a while. But every day I learn something more just by staying on task. The project has given me a whole new appreciation for those who have been involved in translation. It also continues to remind me how important it is to keep it up. We are not there yet. We have a long way to go. There are still truths in the original scriptures which are not clear from our numerous translations.

God also reveals himself through personal experience (12-14).

There is another way that God who is not silent has revealed himself as well. Notice what the last few verses of this psalm tells us:

12 Who can know all his errors? Please do not punish me for sins I am unaware of. 13Moreover, keep me from committing flagrant sins; do not allow such sins to control me.Then I will be blameless, and innocent of blatant rebellion. 14 May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my sheltering rock and my redeemer.

God has overwhelmed us with evidence of his existence – first by placing trademarks in creation itself that point to his character and power, then by getting specific through the special revelation in the Bible. Through these means, anyone can recognize that God exists, and have a clear understanding of what he wants. Sadly, we humans have developed world-views that enable us to either ignore the God of the Bible or replace him with a substitute that we can be more comfortable with. But occasionally God intervenes in this mass stupidity and his Holy Spirit produces a believer.  By REGENERATION, he opens an unbeliever’s eyes, and suddenly she can see a universe that reflects its creator, and a Bible that reveals his will.

The result of this miracle is a personal experience with God – a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The miracle itself is a third means of God’s self-revelation. The final words of Psalm 19 are about this kind of revelation.

The focus of this section of Psalm 19 shifts to the personal level, as can be seen in the use of the first person (me, my). The focus also shifts from instruction through the law to redemption from sins. This amazing psalm shows that God wants to do more than just get us to acknowledge his existence, or understand his word. He wants to cleanse us from our personal sins so that we can be reconciled with him, and redeemed for the purpose of an eternal relationship with him.

The God who has flooded the universe with evidence of his creation is not silent. He has revealed himself. He gave us not just one word but over 800,000 words to reveal his will. But if you really want to get to know God, you can go beyond even these two forms of revelation. You can get to know God personally. He can redeem you and forgive you for all your past mistakes. He can walk beside you and change the words of your mouth and the musings of your heart. You can actually stand before him blameless and cleansed. You can do this because of Jesus Christ. His death on the cross was God’s answer to your sin problem. Come to Jesus today, and you will begin to know God like you have never known him before. 

Pray with me.











In Jesus’ name. Amen!



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Matthew 5:27-30 NET

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell.

We have been studying our Lord’s sermon on the mount for several weeks now. It is very easy to get misdirected in our interpretation of what Jesus said in this sermon. There are a number of schools of thought that have developed about it. One of the extreme schools of thought suggests that our Lord’s words do not apply to us during this church age. That group teaches that Jesus intended his sermon to be a new law for Israel, but since Israel rejected him, the sermon does not apply to the church. It will only apply when Israel accepts Jesus as their king during the millennium. Those who follow this school of thought suggest that “rightly dividing” the word means recognizing that Jesus’ commands in the sermon on the mount do not apply to Christians during this dispensation of grace.

But there is a big problem with following that logic. We have seen that although the crowd was looking on while Jesus was preaching the sermon on the mount, he was specifically targeting his twelve apostles with the message. The apostles were also present on the mountain in Galilee where Jesus gave them the great commission. There he commanded them to make disciples of all nations, beginning in Jerusalem but targeting all people in all nations to the end of the age. Jesus had told these same apostles that they were the light of the world and the salt of the earth. So, no, the sermon on the mount is not specifically designed for Israel during the millennium. It was specifically designed for missionaries who are commissioned to reach the nations for Christ. Applying the sermon on the mount to this age is rightly dividing the word.

We are discovering that the more we look at the sermon on the mount, the more it fits as a mission manual for God’s people to reach the lost for Christ. But it is important to keep in mind that the words themselves are not designed for unbelievers. They are designed for people like those twelve apostles — people who have already repented of their sin and pledged loyalty to Jesus Christ as their Savior, Lord, and King. The sermon on the mount was not designed to get them saved. It was designed to get them to live the life that would draw other people to Christ. It was designed for people who were already the light of the world — to keep them from hiding that light.

Two weeks ago, we looked at what Jesus said about anger. It was possible for anger to make the missionaries unfruitful in their mission. That was why Jesus warned them not to allow anger toward their brothers to linger in their hearts. Also, they had to reconcile with others who were angry at them — even if it meant disrupting their religious worship. Jesus warned that anger had to be dealt with.

Today we’re looking at another feeling buried in the heart. This is the feeling of lust — the burning desire for someone other than your spouse. We begin by looking at what Jesus told them about the Old Testament Law.

The Law had prohibited adultery, but it did not prevent it (27).

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.” They had heard this. It was in the Old Testament. It was one of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18). God intended his people to be faithful to their covenants with each other as well as their covenant with him. He still does. But with the command comes the temptation to transgress the command. The Bible records several examples of those who transgressed this command, including Lot, Shechem, Judah, Eli’s sons, Tamar, David, Bathsheba, Amnon, Herodias, and the woman at the well whom Jesus spoke to in Sychar.

When we looked at the prohibition against murder, we found that there was an evil root in the hearts of human beings that if allowed to grow, would eventually lead to transgressing the command. The same is true for the command against adultery. The problem is not the command itself. Harrington says that In this section, Jesus is “more concerned with going to the roots of biblical commands than with contradicting them” (28).

Most would agree that being faithful to one’s spouse is a good thing. It is healthy. It is designed to produce happiness and security in marriages and provide for stable families. But if we give in to the temptations of the heart, our marriages are in danger. To deal with the heart issue you have to focus your obedience on something else besides adultery because adultery is an effect, not a cause. We have to get to the root cause in order to prevent adultery.

The heart temptation behind adultery begins with a lustful look (28).

Jesus said that “whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Hahn and Mitch say that like “the Mosaic Law, Jesus forbids acts of adultery Yet he extends the prohibition to forbid even personal lust and interior thoughts of impurity. Looking and thinking “lustfully” (5:28) already violate the New Law, even if the exterior act of adultery is not committed” (26).

The lustful look is the evil weed that has to be pulled or else adultery will be the eventual result. Genesis 34 tells the story of Shechem, whose eyes looked lustfully on Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. He saw her and he had to have her.

2 Samuel 11 tells the story of King David, who “got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of his palace. From the roof, he saw a woman bathing. Now this woman was very attractive. So David sent someone to inquire about the woman. The messenger said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” David knew that she belonged to someone else. But he had a lustful look at her, and he had to have her.

Matthew 14 records John the Baptist’s words to King Herod. He told him that it was not lawful for him to have Herodias. But Herod had a lustful look at her, and he wanted her.

N. T. Wright says that what “he commands us to avoid is the gaze, and the lustful imagination, that follows the initial impulse” (48).

The lustful look is just like a random angry thought. We might think that it is harmless, but that is because we fail to see the result. The examples of lust in the Bible are parts of stories of tragedy and death. Lust rips marriages and families apart, and leads to violence and cruelty, and disharmony.

Note how Jesus describes lust here. He says that “whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The heart that looks lustfully on someone else’s spouse has already transgressed the command. The weed may be so small that nobody else notices it — maybe not even the target of the lust. France says that Jesus is talking about simple sexual desire here, but “the desire for (and perhaps the planning of) am illicit sexual liaison” (204).

Our modern culture has made it harder and harder for marriages to last because we have chosen to give the lustful look free reign. We have been taught to look but don’t touch. This philosophy has created a generation of Davids who can look down from the roof of their palaces on all the Bathshebas that they could care to lust after — all within the privacy of their own phones or computers. We are paying the price for that freedom.

Jesus’ generation and culture had promoted the same kind of freedom and were producing the same kind of unfaithfulness. But Jesus did not condemn the culture of the Roman empire. He correctly diagnosed the problem. The choice to look at another person lustfully is an individual decision to sin.

Jesus recommended extreme measures to prevent the lustful look (29-30).

He said “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell.”

Obviously, Jesus is not encouraging self-destruction here. But he is pointing out the fact that if we refuse to take drastic measures to deal with this problem, destruction is exactly what will happen. Beare says that Jesus is using “a forceful image of the drastic effort that must be made” to deal with the problem of the lustful look (153). It would be better to maim our bodies by plucking out an eye, or chopping off a hand because if we allow lust to have free reign, we are heading to hell.

Jesus said that in hell, God will destroy the sinner entirely — body and soul (Matthew 10:28). Jesus also said hell is for hypocrites. Anyone who claims to be a Christian but is ruled by his lustful thoughts is only pretending to follow Jesus.

The apostle Paul said the same thing. He said “the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God! (Galatians 5:19-21).

It doesn’t matter what you profess. It matters what you practice. Paul said that “those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). Instead, we are supposed to practice the fruit of the Spirit. We cannot do both. We cannot practice the fruit of the Spirit on Sunday morning and live like the devil from Monday to Saturday.

If we try to take Jesus literally here, we are not going to succeed. Even if we pluck out one eye, the other one will be there to engage in lustful looking. Even if we chop off one hand, the other will be there to help the eye go where it shouldn’t go.

Beare, Francis W. The Gospel According to Matthew: Translation, Introduction, and Commentary. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982

France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

Hahn, Scott, Curtis Mitch, and R D. Walters. The Gospel of Matthew: With Introduction, Commentary, and Notes and with Study Questions. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000.

Harrington, Daniel J. Meeting St. Matthew Today: Understanding the Man, His Mission, and His Message. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2010.

Wright, N T. Matthew for Everyone: Chapters 1-15. London: SPCK, 2004.