Category Archives: Bible Questions

QUESTION: How Can I Get the Most Use From My Bible?

A tool can be very valuable if we learn how to use it. The worker is never without his hammer, because of its many uses. If he believed that a hammer had only one use, say for driving nails, then he probably wouldn’t value it as much. But he can likely accomplish two-thirds of his daily tasks all by using a hammer – but he must know how to use it. In order to get the most use from it, he must know how to use it.

So it is with the word of God, the Bible. It is our theological toolkit for living the Christian life. We need it to grow in our faith and be the Christian that God has called us to be. No believer can be obedient to God without the Bible, so it is important that we use our Bibles effectively. The Scriptures are profitable to our Christian growth (2 Tim. 3:16), but we must know how to use them.  So how can we get the most use out of our Bibles? I believe there are five basic ways we can get the most use from our Bibles:

1. Read the Bible. This is the most basic way we can use the Bible. Do you read the Bible every day? Everyone reads and learns at a different pace, so it may take some time to adjust to reading the Bible regularly—but perhaps the best way to read it is by reading a few chapters a day, in the morning and the night. A good Bible reading plan is also very helpful—helps keep you accountable and track your progress. We must take time out of our busy schedules to read God’s word. If you’re too busy to read the Bible, you’re too busy. The good part about it is that the more we read it, the more we will want to read it, and the more we will be equipped with its teachings.

A while ago, I did a little math to calculate how long it would take someone to read through the entire Bible. The Old Testament, consisting of 929 chapters, would only take you 26.5 weeks to read all the way through if you read 5 chapters a day. That’s reading through the entire Old Testament in about 6 months. The New Testament, consisting of 260 chapters, would only take you 7.4 weeks to read all the way through if you read 5 chapters a day. That’s Matthew through Revelation in under 2 months. If you read 5 chapters of the Bible daily, you could read through the whole Bible once and read half of it over again. . . In a year. In a small 5 year period, you will have read through the entire Bible nearly 8 times.

2. Meditate on the Bible. This is not simply a suggestion, for the Bible implies that we should meditate on the Scriptures (Psalm 119:15, 48, 97). Do you remember the first Psalm about the godly man who was blessed in every way? How did he get blessed? How did he become so prosperous? It was because “his delight [was] in the law of the LORD and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). Scripture meditation involves pondering and thinking deeply on what we’ve read. We think about what they mean for us, and ponder how to put them into action. Meditation involves allow the Scripture to dictate our thought lives—to let it swim and boil in our hearts and minds throughout our daily commute. Do you have some Scripture that you’ve been meditating on?

3. Pray the Bible. Many people do not realize the benefits of this or see that it’s even necessary, but praying the Bible helps us to align our prayers to God’s will. That’s the only kind of prayers God answers anyway—according to His will: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15). God’s will is revealed in the Bible, so if we want to pray according to God’s will, wouldn’t it make sense to pray the Scriptures? Sometimes we pray for the wrong things, but if we want to pray for the right things, we need to be praying the Scriptures. When you’ve read your Bible each day, let what you read compel you to prayer, and then pray about what you’ve read.

4. Memorize the Bible. This one, like the others, seems to be implied by the Bible itself as a command. We are familiar with Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The psalmist there says that his defense against sinning was that he had stored God’s word in his heart. Scripture memory involves not only getting into the Bible, but allowing the Bible to get into us. It is allowing the word of Christ to dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16). Scripture memorization involves taking time to memorize the Bible, whether a few verses or a few chapters. It is very beneficial, for we can call to mind a Scripture that is especially helpful for us in a time of need or for someone else in a time of need. Because the Spirit of God can’t call to your memory a Scripture you’ve never read or memorized. Do you take time to memorize the Bible? You can write it out on paper until you have it memorized, or you can repeat it back to yourself time after time, or you can simply read it over and over again. I’ve put Bible verses on note cards and slipped them in my pocket as I go about my daily tasks. That way, when I get my keys or phone out, I can always look at that verse first.

5. Study the Bible. Studying the Bible is key. It involves the most effort, but yields the best results. Studying the Bible is observing it, interpreting it, and applying it to our daily lives. We might spend a while studying a verse of Scripture, a chapter, or a whole book of Scripture—but studying involves doing much work to excavate the deep truths of Scripture. A good study Bible helps with this, good commentaries, or other helpful books like Bible dictionaries and Bible handbooks. In studying the Bible, we focus on it—think through it intellectually and emotionally. We discover what the particular author is saying about his subject and what it means for us today. Do you study the Bible? How much time a week is spend studying the Bible?


For further study, see The Work of the Word.

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QUESTION: Temptations Are Hitting Me Hard. What Can I Do?

Every Christian faces temptations, and they can come in all different shapes and sizes. The lay workman may be tempted to call his boss something vulgar. The pastor may be tempted to give up on his ministry. The teenager may be tempted to watch pornography. The believing sister may be tempted to keep quiet about the gospel in conversations with her unbelieving brother. Whatever the temptation may be, this facts stands true: we all face temptations. 

So the first thing to understand is that you should not despair when you face temptations, because everyone has them. Scripture says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13a). Paul says here that there isn’t a single temptation that only you are facing. All of mankind faces them. It is even a temptation within a temptation to believe that we are the only ones who struggle with certain sins or desires. But the Bible clearly teaches that believers are still fighting sin, and thus, all face temptations. So don’t feel like you’re the only one.

Secondly, you need to understand that temptation can be overcome.  Turning again to 1 Corinthians, Paul continues: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (v. 13b). The hope we can have in our temptations is that God is faithful, and that He has provided “the way of escape.” While God does not cause temptations (James 1:13), He does want you to endure them and come out victoriously. And the way He does this is by providing for us the way of escape. But we must be willing to take that route and pursue His way of escape. I have a few practical, biblical suggestions for overcoming temptation in your life and fleeing through God’s way of escape:

1) Study and know yourself. It’s good to take a long look in the mirror sometimes isn’t it? We need to know what desires we have a problem with and what situations or people cause us to enter into temptation. What desires do you have a problem with? Find out what situations, places, or people, cause you to have desires for sin. Study and know yourself well. Ask God to reveal that to you as well. Pray with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24).

2) Avoid tempting situations. Keep yourself away from the situations that cause you to sin against God and fall into temptations. You know it does no good to pray, “Lord deliver me from evil,” if we thrust ourselves into it. I heard an old preacher say, “You can’t pray “Deliver me, Lord, from temptation,” if you thrust yourself thither!” Avoid the situations that cause temptations. Don’t park a freshly washed car under a tree full of birds. In other words, don’t try to be clean when you willingly go into areas that will make you dirty! The writer of Proverbs presents a picturesque warning for us concerning flirting around with sin, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). Indeed not.

3) Submit to Christ. When we get saved, we make Jesus our Savior and Lord. He is our Savior because He saved us from death, hell, and the grave. He is our Lord because He takes control. But that’s the part that gets us sometimes. There may be areas of our heart that we haven’t submitted to Christ and made Him Lord over. But we must submit to His leadership and will and allow Him to take control of all the areas of our heart—including our desires. It is taking “every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

4) Get satisfaction from God. Desires seek to be satisfied. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be desires. So since desire is the problem, then our desires need to change. How can that be done? By getting our satisfaction from God. If you don’t believe that God can satisfy you, David invites you to “Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8). Similarly David says to “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). It’s like eating your favorite food—you keep eating it because of the satisfaction it brings your belly! When you get hungry, don’t you desire your favorite food? Of course you do, because you have a mental remembrance of the satisfaction it brings. It works in a similar way with God. If we will get our satisfaction from Him, we will inevitably begin to desire Him.

5) Walk by the Spirit. Paul says in Galatians 5:16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” He says that if we will live each step of our lives submitted to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we will not fulfill or carry out our sinful desires. The Spirit of God lives in us to enable us to live the Christian life victoriously and He will give us the power to overcome sin if we will submit to Him and walk by Him.

Friend, do not despair. Every believer faces temptations, and every believer can overcome temptations by taking God’s way of escape. Are you willing?


For further study, see Sin’s Greatest Weapon, Empowered to Fight Through Walking by the Spiritand What Happens if a Christian Gives in to Temptation?

QUESTION: How Often Should I Partake of the Lord’s Supper/Communion?

This is what we refer to as a “non-dogmatic” issue. Dogmatic, on the other hand, refers to something that is incontrovertibly true – something that cannot be negotiated, but must be accepted. So when we say that a teaching of the Bible is dogmatic, then it must be accepted and taught, no negotiations or beating around the bush, as they say. A few examples of something biblically dogmatic would be: the gospel, the inspiration of Scripture, the Trinity, the deity of Jesus Christ, and things like this that would radically change the message and validity of Christianity if they were altered even in the least.

But there are also plenty of non-dogmatic issues today. Some of these are: proper church attire, contemporary vs. traditional music in the church, eldership/deaconship, and others like these. Issues that fall into this category can alter and change depending on your local congregation – and they are no more or less biblical than the church that handles those issues differently.  For example, it is just fine if a church allows blue jeans and t-shirts in the worship service. There is no biblical command that says you must wear a suit and tie to worship. But there may be a more traditional church that says you should wear your “Sunday best.” That is also fine. Falling under this category of non-dogmatic is how frequently and individual or church should partake of the Lord’s Supper (or Communion).

The Bible doesn’t specify how often you should partake of the Lord’s Supper, it only specifies that you should partake of it, in a proper manner, and that you understand and apply its meaning. It doesn’t matter if you partake of it once a year, once a month, or once a week. What matters most is that you do it in remembrance of Jesus, understand its significance, and partake of it in the correct manner.

The instructions we have about the Lord’s Supper are found in 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul states: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (vv. 23-26, emphasis mine).

Paul quotes Jesus in this passage, and as far as how often we should partake of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus only requires “as often as you drink it.” That is the only time frame we have. This assumes that we are partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and it implies that it should be done time and time again. The tone used in this part of the passage doesn’t indicate that it should only be done once, but it the tone in this passage also doesn’t indicate that it should be done constantly. Only “as often” as you do it.

The important thing to remember is that the Lord’s Supper is a sacred time to remember the Lord Jesus and the significance of His substitutionary death on the cross, and that we have received it. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Lord’s Supper, referred by them as the Eucharist, actually becomes the body and blood of Christ. That might be a good example of when a non-dogmatic issue becomes a dogmatic issue. When something that is considered non-dogmatic is altered to the point where it conflicts with other Bible teachings, then it needs to be reexamined and reinterpreted in light of the other teachings of Scripture. Nowhere in Scripture does the Bible teach or even imply that the Lord’s Supper transfuses into the actual blood and body of Christ that we must receive for salvation. When something non-dogmatic conflicts with what is dogmatic, it is no longer a non-dogmatic issue.

The Lord’s Supper is a beautiful symbol, and a time of remembrance and thanksgiving. We eat the bread symbolizing that we have partaken of Jesus Himself, the Bread of Life (John 6:35), and we drink the juice (or wine) symbolizing that we have received His blood as atonement for our sins. Nothing in Scripture about the frequency of doing so, only “as often” as we do it.

QUESTION: What Does it Mean to Walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16)?

This question comes from Galatians 5:16 where the apostle Paul says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” The idea in this verse is that if we will walk by the Spirit, we will overcome our sinful desires. So it is imperative that we discover what it truly means to walk by the Spirit. 

This term “walk” carries an interesting meaning. It was a Hebrew term that described one’s life, one’s conduct, or someone’s “walk of life.” This is repeated throughout the Old Testament in various passages like these:

“For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the LORD your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him” (Deut. 11:22).

“But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’” (Jeremiah 7:23)

This Hebraic term is used repeatedly in the Old Testament to picture one’s life. It’s another word for living or life. And life is a lot like walking isn’t it? Walking is something we learn to do. We are taught as a toddler how we are to walk. That’s how life is—it’s something we learn how to do. We learn how to interact with people, develop relationships, get jobs, have families, and so on.

Walking is also step-by-step. Life is a lot like that. It’s just one day at a time—one small step at a time. We learn one thing one day, and another the next. So we understand walking in the Scriptures as talking about our conduct, conducting one’s life, living step-by-step just like walking. So Paul tells the Galatians to live step-by-step “by the Spirit.”

Walking by the Spirit is a continuous, regular action. It is a habitual way of life. It is submitting every step of our daily lives to the Spirit’s control, so that He can move us forward in our Christian lives.

Now, already we live by the Spirit because He gives us new spiritual life. Everyone remembers what Jesus says to Nicodemus about this (John 3:3-6). Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be “born of the Spirit” in order to enter the kingdom of God. This is what happens at conversion. When we trust Jesus by faith and repent of our sins, the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual life. It is by the Spirit that we are born again. He takes what Jesus did on the cross and applies it to us—the Spirit gives us life. (Rom. 8:11)

So although we already live by the Spirit in this sense, then why are we commanded here to live by the Spirit (or walk by the Spirit)? Because there is action required of us. We take many “steps” every day. We make a choice whether or not we will pray and read the Bible in the morning. We make a choice to call other drivers something non-Christian. We make a choice to minister to someone or stay quiet and do nothing. We make a choice to fall into temptation or resist it by God’s power. Every step we take needs to be guided by the Spirit in this walk we call life.

There’s a wonderful result from walking by the Spirit. Paul attaches a wonderful promise onto this command saying that when we do walk in the Spirit, that if we will make the effort to walk by the Spirit, we “will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (v. 16b). There is no negotiating here. You will not gratify the desires of flesh if you are walking by the Spirit. These desires of our flesh are what remains of our sin nature. Yes Christ redeemed us, and yes we are new persons in Christ, but we are not entirely free from the presence and power of sin—and sin has power through our desires. The Bible says that the desires of our flesh are not from God, we should avoid them, and abstain from them because they wage war against our own souls (1 John 2:16; Rom. 13:14; 1 Pet. 2:11).

We will be fighting our old sin nature until the day we pass from this earth and are glorified with the Lord in His eternal presence. But until then, we are in a constant fight. The only way to overcome the desires of our flesh is to submit each step of our daily lives to the Spirit. To walk by the Spirit. This is ultimately the only way to overcome our sinful desires. There are no other solutions or ways. Often times we try to solve the problem of sin in our lives with the wrong solutions—trying harder, committing ourselves, saying to ourselves, “Never again will I sin in this or that way.” But the only sure solution to overcoming sin is by walking by the Spirit of God. The flesh cannot be tamed, it cannot be reformed, it cannot be trained, and it cannot be improved—but it can be overcome by walking by the Spirit.


Do you have a question about the Bible? Submit it here: Ask a Question

 

You’ve Got Questions: Can a Personal Testimony be Used for Evangelism, All by Itself?

A testimony  is defined as “evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something.” An example would be, “his blackened finger was testimony to the fact that he had hit it with a hammer.” But in the Christian realm, what we usually mean by testimony is our personal story of conversion, how we came to faith in Christ. It is our testimony of how we came to Jesus.

Many Christians share their testimony with their coworkers, family, and friends – recounting the events that led up to their salvation, and what their life is like now because of salvation. Some Christians aren’t sure how to share their testimony, and many simply do not because of fear of rejection. With that in mind, should we even share our testimony as an evangelistic effort? If we do share our testimony for evangelistic purposes, are there certain things we should keep in mind? Can a personal testimony be used for evangelism?

I would say, yes with certain qualifiers. A genuine salvation testimony will have in it the essential components of the gospel message. If it is a true conversion story, it will tell how conversion takes place. That is, how the gospel transforms sinners. It should include those basic elements of the gospel: realization of the need for Jesus, repentance from sin, and receiving Jesus as your Savior. For example, when I share my story, I make note of the fact that I realized I was a sinner, a turned away from sin once and for all and then placed my faith in Jesus and His finished work for my salvation and eternal life.

I understand, if we were to share our story in a hurry or with someone who we assume knows us personally, we may be tempted to leave out the gospel’s key elements for convenience. It might be a simple, “Jesus changed my life,” or “I gave my heart to Jesus.” However, it seems strange if we were to go through our testimony in a detailed manner with someone, and leave out the essential elements of the gospel message.

So then, a personal testimony “by itself,” should already have the key gospel elements included in it, but a testimony shared carelessly without those elements is not a good means of evangelism. It’s not evangelism at all if it doesn’t include the gospel.

And perhaps it is helpful to add at this point that while a personal testimony should already include the key gospel elements, I think it should lead one to share the key gospel elements as a separate conversation. We should use our own testimony as a bridge to sharing the truths of the gospel. We should begin with listening to someone’s story, sharing our own, and then sharing God’s story. With that being said, sometimes all we have time to share with someone is our own testimony, but if that is the case (and sometimes it will be), I believe we should place much more emphasis on God’s testimony about His Son: the gospel.


Do you have a question about God, Jesus, or the Bible? Submit it here: Ask A Question

You’ve Got Questions: What is the Purpose of Marriage?

Marriage is among the most weighty, yet heart-warming teachings in the Bible. Many people do not perceive it to be this way, but marriage presents theological truths in ways that nothing else can.  And despite the attempts in our culture today to redefine marriage, God has established the standards for marriage, with its many purposes. From these purposes, it can be easily seen that any attempt to redefine marriage by any other standard will fail and cannot legitimately be called marriage. Since God created and ordained marriage, we are not the determiners of what is right and wrong in marriage—God is. So then, among these purposes for marriage revealed in the Scriptures are:

Procreation

One of the most important purposes for marriage is procreation, that is, populating the earth. God says in Genesis 1:28, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth . . .” Necessary for populating the earth is a man’s seed and a woman’s womb. This is because God created man and woman to complement each other in every way, and through sexual intercourse, children are borne to men and women (Psalm 127:3-5). This is one of the foundational purposes of marriage.

Companionship

When God finished His creation work, the author of Genesis says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31a). Something interesting happens when God takes Adam and puts him in the garden to “work and keep it” (2:15). We read, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (v. 16). Notice that God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. So God made Eve from Adam’s rib and Adam liked what he saw! Adam said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (v. 23). Then, the author states that the very existence of man and woman mandates marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24). So one of the purposes for marriage is companionship. God created man to be in companionship with woman. This is another way they complement each other. God’s purpose in marriage is lifelong companionship—being in union with another human who shares your cares and burdens, laughs and tears.

Family

A third purpose for marriage is family. Many people do not take this into consideration, but family is God’s idea. Malachi 2:15 demonstrates this purpose, perhaps better than any other passage of Scripture. Malachi says, “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring” (2:15a). One purpose of marriage is to create a stable home in which children can grow and thrive. Marriage should create an environment where a child can be taught, loved, disciplined, and grow in the faith. If family were not God’s plan, the church would lose its relevance and would likely not exist, for it is “the family of faith” (Gal. 6:10).

Sexual Purity

A fourth purpose for marriage is for sexual purity. In our world today, as in Bible times, sexual temptation runs rampant. The Bible says that the ultimate cure for sexual immorality is marriage: “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2, emphasis mine). There are temptations all around us, and because of this (not being the only reason) men should seek wives, and women should seek husbands. Our sexual desires should be fulfilled by our spouse. This is because sex within the bounds of marriage is honorable and right in the Lord’s sight: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Heb. 13:4).

The Gospel

This is the grandest purpose of marriage. This is where the Bible’s teaching on marriage is at it’s highest peak. According to the Bible, the purpose of marriage is to represent Christ’s unbreakable, covenant love for His church, the Bride of Christ. Paul says in Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (5:25). This statement is doubly informative. First, it tells us how husbands should love their wives. They should love their wives like Christ loved the church. Second, it tells us how Christ loved the church. Here, marital love informs Christ’s covenant love, and Christ’s covenant love informs marital love. That is, the way a husband loves his wife is how Christ loves the church, and the way Christ loves the church is how husbands should love their wives. This tells us that, just as a husband has an exclusive, unbreakable love for His wife, so Christ has an exclusive, unchanging, unbreakable love for His church. And this theological truth only works with a Bride and Groom (Rev. 19:7-8). Anything that seeks to redefine that standard for marriage is shattering the greatest picture of all: God’s own love for us in the gospel. That’s why marriage cannot be redefined.

Those are the fundamental purposes for marriage as revealed in the Scriptures. No legal document or equality-rally can thwart God’s purposes for His divine ordinance. He alone has authority to say what is right and wrong in marriage. We see from these what we should pursue in our own marriages, and if we are engaged, what we should prepare for.

You’ve Got Questions: Tearing Out Our Eyes and Cutting Off Our Hands? (Matt. 5:29-30)

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we read, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matt. 5:29-30). Very powerful language there. Jesus tells His followers that if their right eye or hand causes them to sin against God, they should remove it and forcibly cast if from them. Why? Because according to Jesus, it’s better to lose their eye (or hand) than to lose their own soul in hell. In the context, Jesus is talking about lust and the urgency of taking action against it, because the cost of doing nothing about it is far more expensive than taking whatever measures necessary to eradicate it from our lives.

So then, we know from the context that Jesus isn’t demanding literal amputation—we know Jesus better than that, and we know the Bible better than that. But His logic makes perfect sense—it’s better to lose a little than a lot. It would be far better for His followers to lose their eye or hand than to lose their own soul in hell.

Should we resort to chainsaws to eradicate lust from our lives? Understand first, that for Jesus’ audience, the right side was seen as more valuable—how many of you are right handed? Likely the majority of you. Most people are right handed, and because of this, they do everything with their right hand. You write with your right hand, hold drinks, spoons and forks to eat, toothbrushes to clean your teeth, use your cellphone, and many other things. If you’re right handed, that’s your dominant hand—it’s more useful and valuable to you than your left.

Jesus is saying that if even what is very valuable to you causes you to sin, then it should be cast away and removed from you. The reason why is because of the high cost of doing nothing about it. It will cost you far more to do nothing, than it will to do something about removing the sources of temptation and lust from your life. Pornography might be valuable to you, but you should cast it away forcibly. Sexual relations before marriage might be valuable to you, but you should cast it away from you. Whatever it is that is causing you to sin, even if it is valuable to you, should be cast away from you!

But even further, if Jesus’ audience actually followed His figurative language literally, if they did gouge out their eye and cut off their hand, would this completely take care of the problem? No it wouldn’t—where does Jesus say that adultery takes place? In the heart (Matt. 5:28).

Jesus is saying that, yes lust happens in the heart, but outside sources can and will contribute to it. And if there are sources in our lives that are causing us to lust, we need to take radical measures against them. Jesus’ point here is that it is urgent that action is taken against lust, because it could lead to God’s judgment. If nothing is ever done to conquer lust in your life, then you don’t view it as very serious. If you don’t view sin as serious, then it is very casual to you. If you see it as casual, then you will likely do nothing about it.

Perhaps a short story from church history will illustrate this point. Origen, who was one of the early church fathers, took this command literally and emasculated himself, but immediately found out that he still faced temptations. Ironically, he later wrote, “[The believer] amputates the passions of the soul without touching the body.”¹


1. Cited in Davies, W. D. and Allison, Dale. C. Matthew: A Shorter Commentary (New York, NY: T & T Clark, 2004), 79.

 

You’ve Got Questions: What Does Jesus Mean by “You Are the Salt of the Earth” in Matt. 5:13?

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), after concluding the section known as the Beatitudes (5:2-12), He says this: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matt. 5:13).

First, to discover what Jesus is saying, it’s important to see that He doesn’t literally mean that the disciples are salt. That would be utter insanity to say that the disciples’ physical form is composed of entirely salt. Because of the context of this passage, we know that Jesus compares the disciples to salt. Jesus compares them (and us) to this earthly element. Still, we might think that this is a strange comparison. To find out what Jesus means here, it’s helpful to define how salt would have been used in Jesus’ day. There were many uses for salt in His time (nearly all of them still in use today). It was used as a preservative to prevent corruption, fertilizer, it was used to add flavor, and it was used to symbolize wisdom (Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24). There were many other uses, as an element in sacrifices, a purifier, a condiment, a preservative—and it was associated with several symbols: it was a sign of purity, of necessity, of loyalty, of peace, of good speech, and even wisdom. It’s not likely that Jesus is limiting His comparison of the disciples any one of those uses for salt. Because of the wide range of uses, it’s really impossible to single out any one, and attempt to do justice to the passage.

But essentially, when it comes to the uses of salt—it affects what it comes in contact with right? It affects meats by preserving them, it affects food by adding flavor, it affects ice by melting it, and so on. That’s what Jesus was saying here. He is talking about making an impact on the world—affecting the world around you. We know this is true from what Jesus says we are the salt of. We, as His disciples are the salt “of the earth.” Jesus wants us to act like salt here, and make an impact. The way we will make a true impact is by being effective for the glory of God (see v. 13b and v. 16). Jesus wants us to make an impact on everybody (for God’s glory) just as salt affects everything that it comes into contact with.¹


1. To learn/read more, see Kingdom People Making a Difference where this entire passage is explained.

 

 

Demons . . . Can They Be Trusted?

Most people view demons through the lens of the fictional portrayal of them by Hollywood—as the scary subjects of Satan with wings and horns. Interestingly enough, they are presented by Mark in his gospel as trustworthy. That probably sounds strange at first, but an examination of the mentioning of demons in Mark’s gospel reveals that the demons were actually right about who Jesus was—they serve as reliable witnesses to who Jesus is. The demons end up saying the same thing about Jesus that Mark does.

Mark’s purpose in writing his gospel was to prove that Jesus was the Son of God. He writes in the first sentence of his account (as a thesis statement), “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1, emphasis mine). There are numerous places in Mark’s gospel where demons attest to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. One of these instances of things said by demons about Jesus is found in Mark 1:24, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” That’s who Jesus is—the Holy One of God. Immediately Jesus rebukes the demon (“the unclean spirit;” Mark 1:23) and it came out of the man (1:26). Another statement that is said by demons of Jesus is in Mark 3:11, “You are the Son of God.” Mark writes that when the unclean spirits had seen Jesus, they had fell down before Him and cried out that He is the Son of God. Again, here Jesus is called the Son of God by demons. Similarly, He is called “Jesus, Son of the Most High God” by demons in Mark 5:7.

These statements are important to Mark because he is showing that Jesus is truly God’s Son. In other places in Mark’s gospel, he supports Jesus’ Sonship by writing about His power. The calming of the storm (4:35-41), for example, shows Jesus’ power of nature. From healing diseases to raising the dead to life, Mark further reinforces the truth of Jesus’ Sonship by writing about the power He has over demons and what the demons had to say about Jesus—that even demons know who Jesus is and tell the truth about Him—that He is the Son of God.

While demons will never be saved, but will one day be cast into hell (Matt. 25:41), they can be trusted about who Jesus really is: the Son of God who has authority and power over all things; that “all things are in subjection under Him” (1 Cor. 15:27).