Written by Victor Stanley Jr.

 

“You think I have come to bring peace on the earth.
I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
(Matt. 10:34)

These are the words of Jesus to His disciples before sending them out into Judea to proclaim the message of Christ. These words do not mesh well with the romanticized timid and docile Jesus we tend to speak about in our churches. These words would not be spoke by the Jesus who wouldn’t harm a fly, who would never inconvenience us, who would never put us in uncomfortable positions, or disrupt our cozy lives. The Jesus proclaimed in most of our churches is at the mercy of our free will, our capriciousness, our desires, and is a glorified Santa Claus who grants wishes asked of him in the form of so called prayers; that Jesus would not dare to speak these words. If the Jesus we claim to carry in our hearts were to speak these words, well, we might have to kill Him for disrupting the natural scheme of things and upending our lives.

*Read Matthew 10:1-42[1]

To enter into the salvation of the Lord requires nothing of us, for by grace we have been saved through faith. Yet, to be His disciple, to follow after Him, to be His servant, His slave, well, that will cost us everything. The question is this: Do you look like Christ? Matthew 10 sits as one of the most difficult passages on the shape and nature of the Christian life. Jesus does not mince words as He lays out what life will look like for those who follow after Him. The first four verses list the 12 Apostles who are being sent out by Jesus. Verses 5-15 tell us what it is we are meant to do; Verses 16-25 describe what will happen to us as we follow Christ down this path; Verses 26-31 tell us why we can be bold and confident in our task; Verses 32-39 explain what it will cost us to follow Christ; and verses 40-42 speak of the reward given to those who accept the message being proclaimed. I will conclude with a quick look at 2 Corinthians 4:7-12.

What Are We Meant To Do?

“Go… and proclaim as you go saying,
‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand [or has come near]’”
(Matt. 10:5-6)

This is the charge given to the Apostles in verses 5-7 as Jesus is sending them out into the towns of Judea. This too is what we are called to do, to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom. This differs from the paradigm we normally work off of, which has us more concerned with proclaiming the death and resurrection of Christ and the forgiveness of sins that comes with it. This definitely needs to be preached, but it is really only a partial gospel; while it is good news that one’s sins are forgiven, and that the Christ, the God-man, has granted us eternal life, this is really an open-ended revelation, there has to be more to the story. What good is Christ as king if He has no kingdom? How can we be a strange and holy people, foreigners from another place if we have no homeland? The writer of Hebrews makes it clear:

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16 NASB)

Thus, we do not simply proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ or the coming of the savior. No, we proclaim the inauguration of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom has come, the High King of Heaven has been seated on His throne, through His death and resurrection the way has been opened, through faith by grace sinners are forgiven and can enter into this Kingdom, being made citizens, and even sons and daughters of the Most High God.

To place one’s faith in this message of hope, of salvation, of liberation is to place one’s trust in the One in whom this hope, salvation, and liberation are grounded and sustained. It is to be transformed into a certain kind of person; as C.S. Lewis says, “We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules: whereas He really wants people of a particular sort;”[2] It is to be transferred from the community of worldliness, sin, and godlessness into the communion of the saints; and, it is to be transported from one’s existence in a particular village, city, or nation into a Kingdom not of this world (John 18:36). These three types of translations change the very nature of the Christian, she is a new creation reflecting her God; Do you look like Christ? Let us look at the further tasks and regulations given to the Apostles.

In verse 8 of chapter 10 the Apostles are told to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown point out that “Here we have the first communication of supernatural power by Christ Himself to His followers—thus anticipating the gifts of Pentecost.”[3] We must be careful not to put too much weight on this verse as many Christians have. This verse is similar to Mark 16:17 where Jesus says that “these signs will accompany those who believe in His name.” Mark 16:9-20 is not found in some of the earliest manuscripts, and thus we should not build doctrine and practice off of that passage. What we are left with is this passage and the book of Acts. In both instances, supernatural signs are used to affirm the message that is proclaimed, not as a show or demonstration of power, or to convince people of God’s existence and presence. Romans 1 says that what can be known about God is evident in the creation, we do not need signs and wonders to affirm that God is God. Rather, Christ tells the Apostles to proclaim the Kingdom, and then to serve and care for the people to whom they proclaim this message. Each of the signs listed in verse 8 are concerned with meeting people’s physical ailments, and that is the principle we must take from this passage: Proclaim the good news of the Kingdom to meet their spiritual need, and meet their physical needs by serving and caring for them. In this we demonstrate that we are truly the children of God. I am not a cessationist, I very much believe the supernatural gifts are active, but let’s keep them in their proper form and perspective. This is important as we look at how people will respond to the nature and content of our ministry.

Verses 9-16 emphasize that we do not go out for our own benefit. We are to take no excess possessions with us and we are to forgo monetary compensation. However, we should expect to have our physical needs met, Jesus says, “the laborer deserves his food.” Beyond this we are to find those who are “worthy,” that is the Greek word αξιος (ax-ee-os), meaning honorable, admirable, or deserving.[4] As we travel throughout this world we are to find those who are worthy of the Gospel, and rely on them to provide for our daily needs, to be hospitable in order to aid us in our mission. Foerster says that “A man is worthy of the Gospel of Christ as and because he receives it; all thought of merit is excluded by the nature of the Gospel.”[5] Thus, those who receive us are those who are worthy, and Jesus speaks more of these people in verses 40-42. We are to bring peace upon those who receive us, yet for any house that is not worthy we are to keep our peace and move on. Furthermore, if any town or city rejects us and the message of Christ we are to leave that place, for judgment will come upon it.

What we are meant to do is proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God, and to serve those to whom we proclaim this message. We are to do this without striving for personal material or monetary benefit, and we are to trust God that the receivers of this message will help meet our most basic needs. So already we see that to begin the task requires a giving up of our worldly comforts and possessions, and a reliance on those to whom God sends us to rather than ourselves. This begs the question: What can we expect as we venture down this path and set ourselves to fulfill the commission given us?

What Will Happen To Us?

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us,”
(Romans 5:3–5).

 Suffering is a permanent component of the Christian life, Paul says in Acts 14:22 “through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God,” (my emphasis).[6] Christ makes this painfully clear in verses 16-25 of Matthew 10 as He states that persecution will come even from within our own households.

*Read Matthew 10:16-25

We are the disciples of a teacher who was hated and despised; the slaves of a master who was falsely accused and murdered. This master, who is Christ Jesus, is accused of being Beelzebul, a demon prince. If He is a demon prince, then we His servants are His demonic subjects. This damning and blasphemous charge levied against Jesus and those who follow Him sets the context for the persecution we will face. Jesus says that if the world considers Him to be Beelzebul, how much more will they despise and hate His servants? So again I ask, do you look like Christ? We are being sent out into a society and culture that has not only rejected Christ, but has colored Him as evil, as wicked. We see it clearly in popular films such as Guardians of the Galaxy 2 where the god character is a self-centered womanizer who murders and destroys to achieve his own ends. Or in the Star Wars Saga where Anakin Skywalker, who is conceived by the Force through a virgin birth, is lured to the dark side, and rules the galaxy through fear, oppression, and death.

This environment into which we enter is one that claims to be about “religious freedom” and “tolerance,” but, as Christ makes clear, is a world that will ultimately seek our demise. If we truly stand for Christ and the Gospel we will find that not only will individual people be against us, but governments and world systems will be against us as well. Jesus says that we will be handed over to courts, beaten in synagogues, and dragged before governors and kings. This refers to judicial systems, government authorities, and even religious institutions. One only need to read of the things that Christians suffer in the Middle East, East Asia, and Africa to know that these persecutions are widespread and common.

A quick look at today’s headlines reveal this to be the truth even here in the United States, and I hope that you do read the papers and watch the news; that you are aware of current trends in film, television, and music; that you are clued in to the happenings of politics, education, and social issues; that you read much and listen often. To be uninformed and disconnected from the current events of our society is to shirk the responsibility we have to engage with the culture in which we live. If we fail to have our fingers on the pulse of the times, then we become so insular and concerned with our own circle of existence that we become useless because we are ignorant, willfully ignorant at that, to what is taking place just outside our doors. Jesus implores the Apostles to be wise as serpents, so please read and engage, and read more than the pop-Christianity and pop-Theology found on the bookshelves of Christian bookstores giving us the latest revelation from such and such celebrity pastor. Yet, Christ also charges them to be innocent as doves, so do not allow the culture to taint you, to plunge you into sin, to cause you to become jaded or cynical. Most of you who know me know that I myself am a cynic and somewhat jaded at times, and you’ve seen how debilitating and depressing that can be in my life on occasion. I see Christ at work on me in those areas of my life, and so I implore you all to maintain the simplicity and harmlessness of doves in order to avoid compromising your principles and faith, while also having the cunning of a serpent in order to avoid unnecessarily bringing trouble upon yourself through foolishness or ignorance.[7]

However, the nature of our persecutions does not end with individuals who dislike us, or with world systems that want to be rid of us. Jesus says in verse 22 that “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death…” Those whom we love, and who claim to love us, will turn against us scorning our very lives as they cosign us to execution. Yet Christ says all these things will happen that we might “bear witness before them.” This word “witness” in the text is the word μαρτυριον (mar-too-ree-on) from which we derive our word “martyr,” the word means to give testimony, to be a witness. Our lives are meant to stand as a living testimony of Christ, and Jesus says that we will experience all of this for His sake. We see then, that we are to go about proclaiming the Kingdom as living testimonies even unto death; is this not the pattern of Jesus’ life, and are we not meant to follow in His path? Do you, dear Christian, look like this Christ you proclaim? But, lest we become arrogant or conceited, Jesus reveals that it is not us who testify, but it is the “Spirit of our Father speaking through us.” This fact should give us a confidence that propels us to carry out the task set before us without fear.

 

Why Can We Have Confidence?

“Fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
(Matt. 10:28)

This God whom we serve lifts people up, and brings them low; He can create, and He can destroy, and the fear of Him is the beginning of all wisdom and understanding (Prov. 9:10). The psalmist says “With the LORD on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6 RSV). Again he says, “…in God I trust without a fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:11 RSV). And the writer of Hebrew says, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me? (Heb. 13:6 RSV). Jesus touches on this motif in verses 26-31 of Matthew 10.

*Read Matthew 10:26-31

Truth will always come to the light, and deeds done in darkness will always be revealed. We do not fear what the world does from the shadows, nor do we fear those who operate in darkness, for we walk in and with the light. Furthermore, we proclaim our message boldly from the housetops, not in secret, but in the public square. If we operate from a place of hiding, and only proclaim the Kingdom in secret in the dusk and dawn, what do we accomplish? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hit the nail on the head when he offered up his thoughts on darkness and light: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.”[8] Christ goes with us and the Spirit within us empowers us as the Father cares for us, and the darkness does not, and cannot, overcome their light as the Apostle John states in John 1:5.

We know that the darkness cannot defeat us, but the question remains, “What can man do to me?” In verse 28 of Matt. 10 it says that man can kill the body. As stated earlier, we must live lives that bear witness to Christ even unto death, so is death then a cause for fear? Of course not, did Paul not say that “…with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20b-21). Do you live like Christ? See, we do not fear man or death, because they can only bring temporary harm to the body, yet on the last day both body and soul will be rejoined and stand before the Lord to face the judgement of Him who can destroy both body and soul condemning them eternally to Hell. We obey our master and proclaim the Kingdom, considering that the temporal fate people inflict on our bodies pales in comparison to the eternal fate God can render unto both our bodies and souls. Still, we do not obey out of fear of Hell and damnation, for Jesus says in verse 22 that those who endure to the end will be saved. To endure, the Greek ὑπομένω (who-pah-men-oh), carries with it the idea of cleaving to God and standing firm in the face of hostile attacks as we look forward to the coming of Christ, hope and expectation are intertwined with this.[9]

Thus we obey God because our affections, our attitudes, our hearts, and our minds have been redirected toward Him, and are colored with a hope that allows us to endure until the last day when we will gaze upon the face of our master, our Lord and Savior, and be made like Him, hearing those words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” His eye is on the sparrow, and He numbers the hairs on our head, and so He encourages us and instills in us a confidence in the face of mounting hostility and danger by telling us “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

What Will It Cost Us?

“Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother… a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”
(Matt. 10:34-36)

Our lives are comfortable, we joke about “first world problems,” our troubles are few and easily resolved, we accomplish much by our own strength, and inconvenience is an enemy to be captured and extinguished. The great A.W. Tozer once said:

In every Christian’s heart there is a cross and a throne, and the Christian is on the throne till he puts himself on the cross… We want to be saved but we insist Christ do all the dying. No cross for us, no dethronement, no dying. We remain king within the little kingdom of Mansoul and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of a Caesar; but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility.[10]

Dying to self is more than simply being unselfish, it requires much more of us than the facile task of not being self-centered. For even in being unselfish or curbing self-centeredness, our attentions and affections are often redirected to other persons and objects for as much as they benefit us. Jesus ups the ante…

*Read Matthew 10:32-39

In verse 39 we see that the finding and losing of life, in this life, directly correlates to life and death in the next life, the world to come as it were. The word here translated as “life” is the Greek word ψυχη (sue-kay), which means life or soul; interestingly our English word psyche is derived from this term, and so we end up with psychology, psychiatry, and psychotherapy. What we see here is that Christ is not merely speaking of physical life, but rather the heart, soul, and mind of man; the life that gives life, that animates the body. Those who find their life in anything other than Christ will ultimately be cast into outer darkness, into eternal separation from Christ, spiritual death. But those who, for the sake of Christ, give up their lives, they will enter into eternal glory and life everlasting.

There is a complete surrender of the entirety of one’s being, his desires, affections, and thinking that must take place in order to walk in the fullness of the life into which Christ calls him, or her. This surrendering is all encompassing, no nook or cranny of a person’s life can be withheld, no part of self can be retained. By our own strength and endeavors we might attain many things, we may accomplish much, but in the end what does it profit a person to gain the whole world, for in this he loses his soul (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36). The word “soul” in that passage is the same Greek word ψυχη that is used for “life” in Matthew 10. Even if we supposedly do great things in the name of Jesus it may be revealed that our hearts were not directed toward Him:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

The Rich Young Ruler faces the same dilemma of complete surrender in Luke 18 when asked by Jesus to give away all he had. The Rich Young Ruler was unable to do this even though he had come to Christ seeking eternal life. “The reason the Ruler stood condemned is because he had only the appearance of loving God and his neighbors. However, when put to the test, it was revealed that he loved himself and the things of this world more.”[11] In contrast, just one chapter later in Luke 19 we see Zacchaeus, another wealthy “ruler,” encounter Christ and have a different response. “When Jesus called him by name Zacchaeus rushed to Him, embraced Him, and abandoned everything he had in this world.”[12] The truth of Christ’s words in Matthew 10:39 are found in that total abandonment of world and self, see it is right there in that loss of one’s life, that giving up of everything for the cause of Christ, that a person suddenly finds that a truer life, an abundant and everlasting life, is gained. The heart, mind, and soul must be so completely given over to Christ that as we walk out our salvation every inclination of the heart, every thought of the mind, and every love and affection of the soul is directed by, toward, and through Christ.

But what then of this sword that divides a family and brings a home into ruin. Well, “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account,” (Hebrews 4:12-13). Christ causes division, not necessarily in an active manner, but because humankind’s rejection and hate of Him is so strong that anyone who even looks similar to Him is detestable to them and must be purged from their presence. Do you look like Christ? Matthew 10:34-36 is a quote from Micah chapter 7, I’m going to give you all a moment to read Micah 7, the whole chapter…

Israel had so completely turned from God that wickedness and corruption had utterly suffused the land and impregnated the people with great consequence. Their evil hearts compelled children to turn against their parents (Micah 7:6); a person’s lover became his betrayer (Micah 7:5); friends who were once confidants became me nemeses (Micah 7:5); judges who once upheld the law peddled injustice to the highest bidder, and rulers who sought good sold immorality for a profit (Micah 7:3); Their hands are on what is evil to do it well (Micah 7:3) and they are inventors of evil, ruthless masters of their craft, and they applaud those who take up its practice (Romans 1:30-32). It is not Christ’s followers who come against these people, but instead it is they who come against Christ and His followers. We proclaim the Kingdom, yet Christ has already said in verse 21 of Matt. 10 that it is one’s own family that will turn against him or her because we bear the name of Christ, because we walk like Him and we talk like Him, DO YOU LOOK LIKE CHRIST? What are you willing to surrender? What are you willing to abandon? What are you willing to walk away from?

We detest inconvenience, we get frustrated when the internet is too slow or when church service runs longer than we’d like. We’ll spend hours at the movies, we’ll binge watch Netflix, we’ll blow off a friend and stand up a brother in order to go to a concert, we’ll cling closely to every material comfort, driving around with our cars on “E” while throwing a few dollars into our bank account to make sure there’s enough in there to cover our Spotify subscription. We’ll buy a Firestick, a Roku, an Apple TV, or whatever else before we ever drop a penny in the offering plate, and when we do put money in the offering plate you better believe that the pants, shirt, and shoes we’re wearing on that particular day cost more than what we’ve given to the Church or anyone else over the last several months… I’m talking to myself here, I don’t know what your life looks like, but I imagine we’d all be willing to give up these things for a time in order to “serve Christ.” But this is the least of what Christ asks of us, it barely scratches the surface. He says our own homes will fall into ruin like in the days of Micah because even our unbelieving relatives will turn against us if we truly stand firm in Christ, yet Jesus says if you love even your own father, mother, son, or daughter more than Him, then you are not worthy of Him. He says, “take up your cross,” and there’s some things, some people, that are going to die on that cross with you; are you prepared for this?

Tozer offers the following: “Many of us Christians have become extremely skillful in arranging our lives so as to admit the truth of Christianity without being embarrassed by its implications.”[13] We blush to tell a friend that we cannot watch a certain movie with them, how can we expect to speak truth to an unbelieving family member? We compromise our morals and values in order to vote for a particular candidate, how can we expect to testify of Christ before judges and rulers? We champion patriotism, nationalism, culture, and heritage to the hurt and offense of our own Christian brothers and sisters black, white, brown, red, and yellow, how then can we stand as foreigners and citizens of a Kingdom not of this world made up of every tribe, tongue, and nation? We don’t want others crossing our borders seeking refuge and work, how then can we cross the street, let alone socio-cultural boundaries, in order to love neighbor and shine light into the darkness even at the expense of our own life?

Do you love your father, your mother, your brother, sister, grandmother, son, or daughter more than Christ? Do you love your iPhone, high speed internet, or Netflix account more than Him? Do you love your middle-class suburban life with a six-figure salary and nice retirement plan more than Him? Do you love your country more than Him? Your political party? Your theological camp? Your denomination? Your culture? Your race? Your spouse? Yourself? Do you love any of it more than Him? I know that verbally you would say no, but your actions and mine say “yes.”

In all of these things we fail to acknowledge Christ, in fact we deny Him in favor of all these other things, and this should cause us to tremble uncontrollably with fear. For Christ says that if we deny Him, He will deny us before the Father. Yet if we confess Him, by the grace of God, He too will acknowledge us. As Peter Lange puts it, “He does not mean a mere outward confession of the mouth, but a genuine and consistent confession of the whole life.”[14] The whole life, we must acknowledge Him with our ψυχη, with our heart, mind, and soul totally and completely. Salvation is freely given, but to follow after Christ will cost us everything we have to give. Do you look like Christ? Are you the Rich Young Ruler who went away sorrowful unable to surrender all? Or, are you Zacchaeus, who, upon being called by Christ, gave up all he had, for his joy and fulfillment was found in the Lord of Glory, his Saviour and Redeemer.

Not Our Reward

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” 
(Matt. 10:40-42)

We go out into the world carrying a message of hope and salvation, and those who receive that message, who accept it and live out its truth, enter into the covenant community of Christ, becoming one of His people, grafted in and made holy as they are wrapped up in God’s love and mercy. We carry this message boldly and with confidence because we too have experienced its power, we ourselves commune with this merciful and gracious God who has freed us from the bondage of sin and flesh and brought us into His wonderful and glorious presence to serve and love Him, and be loved by Him for all eternity. We proclaim this message, not for our own benefit or reward, but rather that those who receive it, who receive the King of whom it speaks, might receive a reward. “In welcoming and supporting the disciples, the people would be receiving Jesus Himself and the Father who sent Him.”[15] In this then we must look like our savior; Do you look like Christ? It is not our reward that we should be concerned with, rather we should focus on bringing peace and blessings to those whom we go out to, that they might receive a reward in receiving us.

What does all of this mean? We know what we are meant to do, what will happen to us, why we can have confidence, what it will cost us, and who will benefit. But it seems to be a daunting if not impossible task, a life that cannot be lived constantly or consistently. This cannot be what the Christian is really called to…

The Weight of Glory

Let’s read what has, for me, been one of the most encouraging passages of Scripture especially when facing difficulties and trouble:

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:7-18)

 I remember hearing a pastor say that in modern language “jars of clay” could be translated “jugs of mud.” Either way, what we have here is a beautiful picture of just who we are, an encouragement to persevere, and a hope to look forward to.

I have painted a grim picture of the world we face, and presented a high standard of character and commitment to which we should all aspire. This is neither extreme, nor hyperbolic, nor alarmist, it is a picture painted throughout the entirety of Scripture. I write this with tears in my eyes because in the midst of such an intense and burdensome call to action and perseverance stands that phrase that caused the preachers of old to shake and stir, that phrase that I’ve seen bring a tear to the eye of the most stoic Christian, that phrase that lessens the pain and brightens the darkness, that phrase that shuts mouths, changes lives, destroys sin, sets free a sinner, wipes away the tears of a crying mother, breaks the heart of father, that looses chains, that gives hope to the prisoner, that causes the martyr to stand without fear, and the prayer warrior to shut herself up in her closet and cry out knowing she is heard, that phrase that comforts the orphan, and that takes a wretched and wicked drug dealer who is destitute and lost and carries him to the cross… In the midst of all of this stands that powerful phrase, “But God.”

But God has placed this treasure into fragile, weak, dirty, worthless jars of clay making them priceless. See, we have been entrusted with not just a message, not just the truth, not just hopefulness, no, we have the deposit of the Holy Spirit in us carrying us along, sustaining us, comforting us, and strengthening us. All power and glory belongs to God, and it is demonstrated by His using weak vessels to accomplish the work of the King. Matthew chapter 10 lays out an insuperable task that faces unsurmountable difficulties; did you think that it was a task that we could actually complete? Let me help you out here, not only can we not complete it, but our first step down this path would be met with a fatal blow. No, it is not us who ventures down this road and finds success in the mission, what does Paul say:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Cor. 4:8-11)

It is Christ who lives in us that allows us to meet the challenge that lies ahead. Even in death we find life, Paul says that even though we are wasting away outwardly, our souls are being renewed daily.

This treasure that we possess cannot be destroyed even if our bodies meet their destruction. This treasure that indwells us pushes us towards the hope that directs our steps and holds us up under the pressures and stresses we deal with as we walk out this calling placed on our lives. We look toward what cannot be seen for what can be seen is temporal and fleeting, it is here one moment and gone the next, it is subject to decay and corruption. This is why we gaze at what is unseen because what is unseen is incorruptible and does not erode, it is permanent, it is eternal. Verse 13 says “we believe and so we speak,” we do not entertain a fairy tale that we accept as possibly being true when it makes sense for our lives. We have a soul transforming faith that gives us the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) and dictates that a different kind of life be lived by us. We believe in this God who created everything visible and invisible through His son Jesus Christ who Himself is God, He is the very image, the icon, of the invisible God, and by the power of the Spirit He brings dead men and women to life giving them hearts of flesh (Colossians 1:15-16; Ezekiel 37:26). He has done this for us, and if we truly believe this we must speak and proclaim the Kingdom of Him who has saved us and called us His children.

Salvation costs us nothing, yet to follow after Christ will cost us everything. Jesus says, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Who Christ is, what He stands for, the message He brings, the life He calls people to, and what He asks us to give up causes division. Jesus disrupts the “natural scheme” of things, He shakes up our lives, He pushes back and topples world systems, He dethrones rulers, He destroys the status quo, and all of this causes Him to be hated and rejected along with any who serve and love Him. Yet this light and momentary affliction and persecution prepares us for something that has more gravity to it, it is heavier, weightier, it bears more significance than anything in this world or life ever has or ever will. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” Do you look like Him who you call King, Lord, Father, Savior, Redeemer, Friend…? Do you understand the cost? Do. You. Look. Like. Christ?

 


[1] All Scripture passages are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.

[2] C. S Lewis, Mere Christianity in The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics (San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007) 73.

[3] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997) .

[4] Faithlife Corporation. “Worthy.” Logos Bible Software, Computer software. Logos Bible Software Bible Sense Lexicon (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife Corporation, January 5, 2018.) https://ref.ly/logos4/Senses?KeyId=ws.worthy.a.01.

[5]Werner Foerster. “Ἄξιος, Ἀνάξιος, Ἀξιόω, Καταξιόω.” Edited by Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–).

[6] I like the Holman Christian Standard Bible’s rendering of this verse. It says, “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.”

[7] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. See also, John Peter Lange, and Philip Schaff. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Matthew (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008).

[8] Martin Luther King, Strength to Love, Reprint (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010).

[9] Friedrich Hauck. “Μένω, Ἐμ-, Παρα-, Περι-, Προσμένω, Μονή, Ὑπομένω, Ὑπομονή.” Edited by Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–).

[10] A. W Tozer, The Root of the Righteous (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015) 78-79.

[11] Victor Stanley Jr., “Faith & The Law,” The Double Edge (blog), November 11, 2016, https://hebrews4.com/2016/11/11/faithandlaw/.

[12] Stanley Jr.

[13] Tozer, The Root of the Righteous, 57.

[14] John Peter Lange and Philip Schaff, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Matthew (Logos Bible Software, 2008).

[15] Brian C. Wintle, ed., South Asia Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015) 1243.

 


Bibliography

Faithlife Corporation. “Worthy.” Logos Bible Software, Computer software. Logos Bible Software Bible Sense Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Faithlife Corporation, January 11, 2018. https://ref.ly/logos4/Senses?KeyId=ws.worthy.a.01.

Foerster, Werner. “Ἄξιος, Ἀνάξιος, Ἀξιόω, Καταξιόω.” Edited by Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–.

Hauck, Friedrich. “Μένω, Ἐμ-, Παρα-, Περι-, Προσμένω, Μονή, Ὑπομένω, Ὑπομονή.” Edited by Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–.

Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

King, Martin Luther. Strength to Love. Reprint. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010.

Lange, John Peter, and Philip Schaff. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Matthew. Logos Bible Software, 2008.

Lewis, C. S. The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics. San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007.

New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.

Schweizer, Eduard, Georg Bertram, Albert Dihle, Karl-Wolfgang Tröger, Eduard Lohse, and Edmond Jacob. “Ψυχή, Ψυχικός, Ἀνάψυξις, Ἀναψύχω, Δίψυχος, Ὀλιγόψυχος.” Edited by Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–.

Stanley Jr., Victor. “Faith & The Law.” The Double Edge (blog), November 11, 2016. https://hebrews4.com/2016/11/11/faithandlaw/.

Strathmann, Hermann. “Μάρτυς, Μαρτυρέω, Μαρτυρία, Μαρτύριον, Ἐπιμαρτυρέω, Συμμαρτυρέω, Συνεπιμαρτυρέω, Καταμαρτυρέω, Μαρτύρομαι, Διαμαρτύρομαι, Προμαρτύρομαι, Ψευδόμαρτυς, Ψευδομαρτυρέω, Ψευδομαρτυρία.” Edited by Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.

Tozer, A. W. The Root of the Righteous. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015.

Wintle, Brian C., ed. South Asia Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.