Exposed Hearts #likeJesus

It’s Passion Week.  Everything was coming to a head, like a boiling, churning volcano, ready to erupt.  The Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes were all trying to take Jesus down.

“And He was teaching daily in the Temple.  But the chief priests and the scribes, and the leading men among the people heard this, and they were seeking to destroy Him, for they were afraid of Him.”  Matthew 11:18, Luke 19:47

Can you feel the intensity of these moments?  Every word, every movement, every act was under fierce scrutiny.  They’re determined to find a way, some way, any way to destroy Jesus.  And why?  “For they were afraid of Him.”

What were they so afraid of?  Losing power?  Losing control?

They challenged Jesus, trying to test and trap Him with three successive questions in full view of the throngs of followers and curious onlookers.

“Is it lawful for us to pay a tax to Caesar or not?”

“Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise again, which one’s wife of the seven will she be, for all seven had her as wife?”

“Teacher, in the Law, which is the greatest commandment of all?”

Jesus silences his enemies and amazes the crowds with His responses.

“And no longer from that day did anyone question Him about anything.”

The question about paying taxes to Caesar is recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke.   In harmonizing the three gospel accounts of this event, The Merged Gospels puts Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees this way:

“But He knew their hypocrisy, perceived their malice, and detected their trickery…”

In the NIV, Matthew records that “Jesus, knowing their evil intent.”  Mark says, “But Jesus knew their hypocrisy.”  Luke records, “He saw through their duplicity.”

Oh, but when you take all three and combine them as The Merged Gospels does… hypocrisy, malice, trickery… the power of their hatred comes bursting through with full force!

Oh, how they feared Him!  Oh, how they hated Him!   Did the fear lead to hatred, or the hatred to fear?

It’s no wonder they would choose vile and repulsive Barabbas to be freed over Jesus.  It’s no wonder they would cry out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”

Their hearts were full of hypocrisy, malice and duplicity, and what’s in the heart always comes out!


To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Befriending Sinners #likeJesus

As Jesus traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem, He went through Jericho on the way.  This was a standard travel route, down along the Jordan River, then over through Jericho before ascending up through the narrow pass of the Wadi Qelt in the Judean wilderness.

It’s here in Jeeicho where we find Zaccheus.  What do we know about him other than that he’s “a wee little man?”  Well, we know he’s influential.  Zaccheus is the Chief Tax Collector.  All the other tax collectors report to him, and he skims off the top.  Sort of a first century pyramid scheme.  This makes Zaccheus very rich.  But Zaccheus is not influential in a good way.  He’s corrupt.  He takes what isn’t his.  He cheats others out of their hard earned money.  Zaccheus is probably the most hated man in Jericho!

When Jesus calls Zaccheus out of the sycamore tree he’s climbed in order to see Him, Jesus says, “Zaccheus, quickly come down, for I must stay today in your house.”

I’ve always imagined that Jesus went to Zaccheus’ house for a meal.  That would be bad enough, right?  Eating in the home of the most hated man in Jericho!

But did Jesus just eat with Zaccheus?  Jesus said “stay today.”  And then the people start gossiping, “He went in to lodge with a sinner!”

Did Jesus actually spend the night in Zaccheus’ home?  It appears so.  And wouldn’t this make sense. Think about it…

It takes several days to walk from Galilee to Jerusalem.  Jesus would have to spend the night in several homes along the way, or sleep under the stars exposed to the elements.  Jericho would be the last city to lodge at before ascending up through the wilderness (really a barren desert) toward Jerusalem.

Doesn’t the image of Jesus sleeping in the home of the most hated man in Jericho deepen the scandal even further?  What a profound statement Jesus makes!

Jesus is a “friend of sinners.”

And consider this event in contrast to Jesus’ encounter with the Rich Young Ruler.  That young man believed he could somehow earn God’s favor. “What must I do?”  Zaccheus knows he can’t earn God’s favor.  He knows he’s a sinner.  He hears it every day from those he’s extorted.

When Jesus said it was hard for a rich man to inherit eternal life, He didn’t mean impossible.  That’s what His disciples heard.  But now here is Zaccheus, a rich man, befriended by Jesus.  Zaccheus confesses his sin. He wants to be right with God.  And Jesus tells Zaccheus and all who are listening, “Today, salvation has come to this home!”

“With man, this is impossible.  But with God, all things are possible.”

Zaccheus is living proof!

And then Jesus makes an even more stunning declaration.  I’ve never made the connection of the story that follows until now.

There in Jericho, at Zaccheus house, Jesus tells the parable of the man of noble birth who appointed 10 of his slaves to manage his wealth while he was away.  One increased his master’s wealth he’d been entrusted with by 100% and was blessed accordingly.  A second increased his master’s wealth he’d been entrusted with by 50% and was blessed accordingly.  A third hid his master’s wealth he’d been entrusted with so he wouldn’t lose it.  He increased it by 0% and was punished accordingly.

So what does this have to do with Zaccheus that I never saw before today?  Telling this story in Zaccheus presence after he’s just repented of his sin and embraced Jesus as Savior would be Jesus’ not so subtle rebuke of those who self-righteously judged Zaccheus and thought God would accept them because they weren’t a “sinner” like him.  Like the slaves who increased their master’s wealth 50% or 100%, Zaccheus was acting on his faith.  The self-righteous townspeople weren’t exercising faith in Jesus.  Their attempts at rule-keeping righteousness made them slaves of the law.  They were like the slave who “kept” what was given but failed to do anything with it.

Is Jesus not only telling the crowd that Zaccheus has received salvation, but also that Zaccheus (the most hated, corrupt man in Jericho) will be blessed more than all of them?  What a stunning development!  Can’t you imagine how incredulous this made everyone.

Wow!  When Jesus saves a notorious sinner, He really shakes things up.  Zaccheus, the Apostle Paul, the “worst of sinners” become trophies of God’s grace!


To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Love Obviously #likeJesus

Certain stories in the Gospels are told so vividly, we imagine them as real.  The Good Samaritan.  The Prodigal Son.  The Rich Man and Lazarus.  None of these is a real story.  They tell real truth, but they’re merely parables.

It’s easy to throw the story of The Rich Young Ruler in this camp as well.  It’s recorded in Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18, making it a significant event.  Yes, an event.  Not just a parable.  This really happened.  And a few things really stand out.

First, the rich young man runs to catch up to Jesus.  He literally runs!  How eager he must have been to meet Jesus.  How troubled he must have been by his spiritual standing.  He knew something was missing and he was desperate to find out what it was!  So he ran…

Next, notice the burning question he has for Jesus.

“Good Teacher, what good thing will I do that I might inherit eternal life?”


This young man has wealth, status, accomplishments.  He’s accustomed to people accepting him based on what he has to offer.

Don’t mistake Jesus’ reply to go sell everything he has and give it to the poor as God’s standard for earning eternal life.

Jesus wants to get the young man off the DO track.  To show him there is nothing HE can DO to inherit eternal life, Jesus gives him something to do that He knows will be impossible for him.

This becomes clear when the disciples later tell Jesus what He’s saying is impossible, and He replies, “What is impossible for man is possible for God.”  No, you can’t be good enough to earn eternal life, but God will make it possible for you to receive it another way.

The most powerful statement for me in this entire encounter is where we read that “looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him.”

I wonder how the Gospel writers knew Jesus felt a love for the young man.  Did they see it in His eyes?  Did they hear it in His voice?  Did Jesus reach out and put His hand on the young man’s shoulder?

However He conveyed it, Jesus’ love for the young man was obvious.  Jesus showed compassion for the lost.

For Jesus, this was not an argument to be won.

For Jesus, this was not a project to be completed.

For Jesus, this was a person He would willingly lay down His life and die for.

If the disciples could see this love in Jesus’ eyes, I want to look at others with the eyes of Jesus.

If the disciples could hear this love in Jesus’ voice, I want to speak to others with the voice of Jesus.

If the disciples could sense this love through Jesus’ touch, I want to touch others with the tenderness of Jesus.

Father, please allow others to know Your love by the way I live and love.

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Super Serious #likeJesus

In Matthew 18, Jesus gives clear instruction on dealing with the person who has sinned against you.

First…  go to them privately.  Rebuke them.  If they repent, forgive them.  The relationship is restored.

Second… if they don’t listen, take one or two people with you.  Let them offer their counsel and encouragement.  If the one who has sinned against you won’t listen to them, those you brought are now your witnesses.

Third…  if they will not listen to you or your witnesses, you must bring it to the Church.  Does Jesus mean we should bring the matter before the whole church, or just the leadership of the church?  Because Jesus says “if he will not listen to the Church,” it appears at the very least that leadership (elders) is speaking on behalf of the Church as a whole.

Fourth…  if they don’t listen to the Church either, they are to be treated as an unbeliever.  But what does that mean?  Unlike our churches where we welcome unbelievers into worship to be exposed to the gospel, in the Jewish context heathens or known sinners were not allowed into the Temple or synagogue without first confessing their sin and being made clean.  The sabbath was to be kept holy.  Jews had rituals they went through to assure they were pure before the Lord.  Ritual baths.  Dietary rituals.  Recited prayers.

How do we apply this today?  What does treating an unrepentant Christian as a heathen look like for us?  To apply Jesus’ intent, they would be asked to leave the church.  They would not be allowed to participate in worship.

Jesus takes sin and broken relationships seriously.  He adds spiritual weight and authority to these decisions when He says, “Truly I say to you, whatever things you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven. And whatever things you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.”  Your decision in this matter is binding.  It holds weight.  You have the spiritual authority to do this.

It’s in this context that Jesus says, “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on the earth concerning anything, whatever they might ask, it will be done to them by My Father Who is in Heaven.  For where there are two or three gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them.”

We often read or hear these verses and take them to refer to the power that we have when we pray together, that God’s presence is promised when two or three gather in His name.

That’s not what Jesus was saying.  Jesus was speaking about confronting a believer who has sinned and who has refused to repent.  With the godly counsel and agreement of two or three witnesses, we have established that this person is unrepentant.  Then we can be confident that Jesus stands with us in our decision.

But Jesus is not finished.  He then tells Peter and the others that when your brother sins against you, forgive him.  Not just once.  Not just seven times.  But seventy times seven.

While we should be prepared to forgive someone regardless of whether they ask forgiveness or not, Jesus here is speaking specifically about when we are asked to forgive. He tells the parable of a king who is owed a great sum of money by a servant who pleads for the king’s mercy.

Even when the sin against us is great, causing deep pain, forgiveness is not only necessary.  It’s possible.  Because we’ve been forgiven, we can forgive…  and forgive…  and forgive… and forgive…


To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Finders Keepers #likeJesus

Who we’re speaking to can make a significant difference in understanding the intended meaning of our words.

The three successive parables about the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin and Lost Son come into much clearer focus when you consider their audience.  Jesus was not primarily teaching His disciples, but rather was challenging the Pharisees.

“And all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him, to hear Him.  And the Pharisees and the Scribes were murmuring, saying, ‘This one receives sinners, and eats with them.”  Luke 15:1-2

When Jesus spoke of the 99 sheep who did not go astray, He was playing into the Pharisees belief in their own righteousness.  They considered themselves the sheep of Israel.  The “one who goes astray” was clearly the tax collectors and sinners, at least in their minds, even though Jesus knew they’re more like the one that the ninety-nine.

It’s in His story of the Prodigal Son that Jesus teaching got a little more direct.  Of course, the Scribes and Pharisees saw the sinners as the Prodigal, squandering everything on wild living.  But they no doubt identified with the attitude of the older brother.  He had every right to be angry, they surmise.  Yet like him, they are…

Self-righteous.  Judgmental.  Unforgiving.

They had to feel exposed and infuriated by Jesus’ story.  But He wasn’t finished.

The Pharisees loved money.  They believed wealth was a sign of God’s favor.  Jesus told them the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, a pitiful beggar.

Lazarus died and went to heaven.  Could the poor go to heaven?  The Pharisees had their doubts.

The Rich Man died and went to hell.  Could the rich go to hell?  The Pharisees had their doubts.

The Rich Man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers about the torment of hell.  The Rich Man said, “if anyone from the dead goes to them, they will repent!”

Jesus then closed with this, “If they will not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one would rise from the dead.”

Think about it.  Jesus already raised His friend Lazarus from the dead.  That was not enough to convince them.  In fact, they later plotted to kill Lazarus to shut down this story.

It wouldn’t be long before they crucified Jesus, only to have Him rise from the dead too.  And that wouldn’t convince them either.

Some, in their stubbornness and hardness of heart, will never be convinced.  Even if Jesus were standing right in front of them.  Even if they witnessed His death…  and then saw Him alive again…

In that case, it takes more faith NOT to believe than it does to believe.  Some are determined to never believe.  They’re blind to the truth  that’s staring them in the face.


To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Heaven-bent #likeJesus

Webster defines hell-bent as “stubbornly  and often recklessly determined.”  Knowing the wrath to come, I believe we who claim to follow Christ should be heaven-bent, stubbornly and recklessly determined to keep people out of hell and populate heaven…

Reading through the four Gospels month after month, I’m realizing that there are many small details I’ve skipped over, things that have gone unnoticed my entire life.  Crazy!

Matthew records these words from Jesus. “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather up out of His kingdom all the stumbling blocks, and those doing lawless deeds, and they will cast them to the furnace of fire.  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”   Matthew 13:41-42

Then again, He says, “So it will be in the end of the age.  The angels will come forth, and separate the evil from among the righteous, and they will cast them to the furnace of fire.  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Matthew 13:49-50

I’ve never paid much attention to the role of the angels in carrying out God’s judgement.

Picture SEAL Team 6 on their stealth mission that took down Osama Bin Laden.  Their strike was sudden, unexpected, efficient and unrelenting.

When that day comes, Jesus will send out a multitude of heavenly “SEAL Teams,” angelic warriors from the armies of God.  They’ll gather up those without Christ and deliver them to the flames of hell.  The finality of their judgement will be horrifying.

Yes, Jesus here uses the reality of hell to motivate unbelievers to repent.  With His disciples listening on, it was also motivation for them to share the Good News.

Reading about the angels being sent on this sobering mission, it got me thinking, “Where else does the Bible speak of angels assisting Jesus in carrying out the judgement of God?”

“And He shall send forth His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to another.”  Matthew 24:31

“But when the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all His angels with Him, then shall He sit on the throne of His glory.”  Matthew 25:31

“…at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of His power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus, who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction…”  2 Thessalonians 1:7-9

The angels are at Christ’s disposal to help Him carry out His work.  Imagine that moment when they come for us believers to gather us to Christ!  But more than that, put yourself in the shoes of friends and family members who don’t know Christ yet.  What will their encounter with the angels be like?

Sudden.  Swift.  Decisive.  Terrifying.  The angels are battle-tested, undefeated, fearless, overpowering.

I think of them riding with Christ against the armies of hell, Satan with his legions of demons and the antichrist.  Chills go up my spine.  It’s like a scene from Braveheart.  But those very same angels coming against someone I know and love?  That’s more than my heart can bear.

The image of this should drive me to my knees, flood my eyes with tears, fill my heart with compassion, and set my feet in motion to carry the message of the cross to a lost and dying world!


To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Urgent #likeJesus

Luke 13 records an interesting, almost cryptic exchange Jesus had with some followers in Capernaum.  We’re not sure exactly who’s present.  The Twelve were likely with Him, as they were traveling full-time with Him then.  However, Jesus was back at His home base where several of His disciples lived, so some might have been at their own homes or tending to other family obligations.

“And certain ones were present at that time, telling Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices.”  Lk 13:1

Evidently, while Jesus had been away from home, Pilate had slaughtered some people from the region.  This must have happened around the time of a feast because Luke tells us it happened at a time when the Jews were making sacrifices.  The reference to the “mingling of their blood” could mean this actually happened during a Passover, the one feast where blood was most prominent.

[Harmony Note:  Cheney references this as an additional Passover reference to substantiate his claims for a 4 year length for Christ’s ministry.]

This was news to Jesus.  He was evidently not aware of this event, but He used it nonetheless to teach them the importance of repentance.

Don’t think that these men were more guilty before God than you, and that’s why this happened to them.  You’re ALL guilty before God.  You must all repent.  You must all recognize your sinfulness before God and put your faith in Me as your Messiah, your Savior.

Then to emphasize their need to repent, Jesus told a parable.  It too is a bit cryptic.  Is there more meaning than meets the eye?

Jesus spoke about a fig tree that was planted and for three years produced no fruit.  The owner of the vineyard wanted to cut it down, but the vine-dresser asked for one more year.  Then, if it bore no fruit, cut it off!

Jesus was making a point.  You need to repent.  To that point, their life had not produced fruit.  God was being patient with you, but you need to repent.  You need to believe in Me, that your life may produce fruit, before you run out of time.

There’s an urgency to the Gospel.  Just as those Galileans didn’t know they’d be slaughtered by Pilate, none of us know when our day will come.  Today is the day of salvation.  As disciples, we need this same urgency with our friends who don’t know Jesus.

Now for the cryptic part.  Why does Jesus use the specific time frames that He does?   For three years, no fruit.  One more year.   This could merely be a random choice of numbers to make His point, but Cheney argues that Jesus is saying, “I’ve been with you, ministering and teaching among you for three years now.  Still you don’t believe.  Still there is no fruit.  I will be with you one more year.  If you continue in your unbelief, your hearts will harden, your unbelief will become permanent, and you will be cut off from God forever.

They had Jesus with them.  They were eyewitnesses to His miracles.  They heard Him teach.  Yet many of them still didn’t believe.  This makes no sense!

Sometimes it makes no sense why those we love and are praying for and sharing the gospel with don’t believe.  We must remain faithful, urgent and gracious in sharing the Gospel…  and leave the results in God’s hands.


To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM