Links for the Weekend (7/31/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

You Will Regret Giving In

We who belong to God often do not take sin seriously enough, and we therefore don’t fight against temptation with all our might. Garrett Kell provides four strategies to combat temptation.

God rarely touches our lives in such a way that we stop loving some long-ingrained sin immediately. But as we fight sin and pursue him, he changes our affections. We begin to love what he loves, and hate what he hates. Our confidence in willpower fades, and our hope focuses on Jesus, who was tempted and yet resisted in all the ways we have not (Hebrews 4:15).

The Mission Field I Never Expected

Rachel Wilson had grand visions of working for the poor or oppressed or enslaved around the world. She didn’t know God would have a far different calling in mind for her as the mother of two children with special needs.

For those of us who are mothers (and fathers), God wants us to esteem the field he’s given us. It’s not a tiring distraction from the true mission field we should be tilling; these are our people, for us to reach and for us to be trained and transformed as we do. Not only that, but in our giving, as we willingly lay down our lives, he smiles on us, because as Christ explained, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40, NIV). All the sacrifices, the diaper changing, the feeding, the dealing with meltdowns—they cannot be worth it if they’re just for our children. But they’re not. Ultimately, they are a perfume poured out for him.

How to More Wisely Consume News

We have more news—and more options for consuming the news—than ever before. How should we as Christians exercise discernment in this area? Bryan Weynand writes about virtues of wise media consumption and then offers some practical steps.

Still, as much as the media landscape is a minefield of misinformation, manipulative clickbait, and partisan rants, good journalism remains. Finding it requires intentionality and discipline, yet it can guard us against a frenzy that undermines our ability to trust anything. To this end, I believe it’s helpful to assess media sources through a grid of biblical virtues.

J. I. Packer: A Personal Appreciation from Ray Ortlund

Influential writer and theologian J.I. Packer died on July 17. Pastor Ray Ortlund wrote about the lasting marks of Packer’s ministry.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article written by Erica Goehring called I Have Stored Up Your Word in My Heart. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (7/24/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

To the Friends Who Tell Me “No”

What makes someone a good friend? This is such an important question, especially in times when we’re not gathering with friends as much as usual. I’m happy to recommend this great description of a close friend—not someone who is always affirming, but someone who is always loving. And love sometimes means saying “no.”

It is difficult to correct a friend. Although I am confident in my convictions, when it comes to those I care for deeply, I naturally desire to affirm. And yet, I know that if my friends did not have the courage to correct me, I would seriously doubt whether they actually loved me. Friends ought to want the best for each other, yet as fallen human beings we so often choose wrongly, think irrationally, and act selfishly. Without my friends, not only would I be lonely, but more than likely I would follow my sinful bent towards selfishness, arrogance, and misdirected affections. The friends who seek to save me from myself—even when I resent and resist it—are the friends I know to be true.

Millions of Kids Won’t Be at School This Fall. Christians Can Step Up to Serve.

With many children in the United States learning from home this year, and with many of the parents of those children needing to work, Heidi Carlson sees an opportunity. She suggests that by offering radical hospitality, Christians can show the sort of just-in-time love to their neighbors that can make a difference.

Those of us surrounded by supportive friends and community are able to rally, to figure out how to make it work. Creative rallying is what we do for people we know and love. But it’s not radical. This massive change in the school calendar is an opportunity for Christians to engage in a different type of radical hospitality.

When God Withholds Sleep

Stacy Reaoch writes about her longtime struggle with sleeplessness. She offers some Scripture to meditate on in the middle of the night, and she shares some of the lessons she’s learning.

In the meantime, God has a purpose in our sleeplessness. He can use our weakness to make us dependent on him, showing us his love and care with each passing minute of the day. He can use our weariness to push us to lean on him as the all-sufficient, all-wise, and all-powerful God, and to know that when we are weak with sleeplessness, then we are strong in him.

The Uighurs of China: A People in Peril

Greg Turner describes the persecution of the Uighurs by the Chinese government as “one of the worst human-rights crises in recent years.” Read this article to learn how you can pray.


Thanks to Maggie A for her help in rounding up links this week!

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (7/17/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Sipping Poison Won’t Make You Wise (Take My Word for It!)

“Does experience with sin make you more wise or more foolish?” Because of the gripping power of turnaround testimonies, we might end up thinking wrongly here. Benjamin Merkle relates a story from his days in the Marine Corps to the temptations of our culture and reminds us where wisdom originates.

This type of temptation still pulls at each of us with an incredible power. We feel that tasting a forbidden thing will bring us greater wisdom and make us more impressive. In fact, think of how easily we can feel embarrassed by all the sins we haven’t committed! We can actually become ashamed of our own innocence. Who wants to be naïve and inexperienced? How many Christian kids are embarrassed by their virginity, even though they’re convinced they’re right in preserving it until marriage?

Respectable Sins of the Reformed World

Tim Challies writes about “respectable sins,” those which might be accepted by Christians even though the Bible forbids them. He writes about those sins to which we are particularly tempted online.

Impugning. To impugn is to dispute the truth, validity, or honesty of another person’s motives. And closely connected to disputing another person’s motives is suggesting that you know the truth behind them. There is so much of this in the Christian world today, and it generates so little disapproval, that it must be classified as respectable. Yet a little biblically-guided introspection should tell us that we often don’t even know our own motives, and if we do not know our own, how could we possibly know anyone else’s?

Prayer Will Win the Nations

If you’ve ever wondered how to pray for missionaries around the world, here is an article giving some concrete suggestions.

In fact, we must. Prayer isn’t just a passing gesture or a frivolous holiday present. Prayer is supplying missionaries with essentials for their survival. Prayer is partnership in their work, vital to its Spirit-filled efficacy and the rescue of sinners. At the risk of sounding clichéd, prayer is a matter of life and death. Our intercession protects them from harm (2 Corinthians 1:11) and provides for the gospel’s advance (Romans 15:30–32).

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Learning from the Humiliation of Jesus. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Learning from the Humiliation of Jesus

Jesus’s crucifixion was not only unjust, it was tortuous. The Romans were famous for their punishing, public executions.

But physical pain was not the only agony Jesus suffered in his final days. In fact, one Gospel writer highlights the emotional torment of Jesus far more than his bodily pain.

Mockery in Luke

As my small group made its way through the end of Luke this year, the humiliation of Jesus jumped out at me.

After Jesus was arrested, the men who held him abused him. Notice the way they mocked Jesus, belittling his position as a divine prophet.

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. (Luke 22:63–65)

Later, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod. Herod and his soldiers “mocked him.” As part of this humiliation, Jesus was dressed in “splendid clothing” (Luke 23:11).

Jesus was “railed at,” “scoffed at,” and “mocked” (Luke 23:35–37, 39). He suffered the indignity of being crucified with criminals. Jesus’s accusers threw the title of “Savior” in his face—surely he cannot be the Christ or the King of the Jews if he can’t even save himself!

The Pain of Public Taunting

Let’s consider these indignities carefully. In public, Jesus was denounced as being utterly powerless. Jesus couldn’t be the Christ, he couldn’t be the Chosen One, he couldn’t be the King.

Because Jesus was fully man, we can imagine some of what he felt during this mockery. Think of a core mission of your life or a label given to you by God. Now imagine someone screaming these taunts at you in the town square. You must not be a child of God! She is not much of a mother! He cannot be a true missionary!

Here’s the awful, terrible truth. Jesus was completely humiliated. He was mocked and taunted and denounced. He heard every biting word, and, one by one, they sliced open his heart.

Lack of Physical Suffering

When compared to the emotional pain that Jesus suffered, Luke records far less physical suffering.

Luke tells us about the beating from the soldiers (Luke 22:63) and the way Herod and his soldiers “treated him with contempt” (Luke 23:11). But Luke doesn’t record Jesus’s crown of thorns or his scourging by Pilate’s men (see Matthew 27:29 and Matthew 27:26, respectively). Luke also omits other incidents of beating, spitting, and slapping that we read in the other three Gospels.

These omissions don’t point to a contradiction. They also don’t mean that Luke was unaware of these abuses. Luke just chose to emphasize Jesus’s emotional suffering.

Why This Emphasis?

This may seem like a strange focus, but it is a natural conclusion to the way Luke writes Jesus’s story. Throughout his ministry, Jesus identified with those who were scorned and cast out. He elevated the humiliated and called his followers to humble themselves in service of others. Once we look for this thread, we see it woven through every page of Luke’s Gospel.

  • Jesus announced his ministry by saying he would focus on the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed (Luke 4:18–19).
  • Jesus’s healings largely focused on those suffering in ways that put them on the margins of society. Among others, he healed a leper (Luke 5:12–13), a naked man possessed by many demons (Luke 8:26–39), a woman with a 12-year discharge of blood (Luke 8:43–48), a boy possessed by a violent demon (Luke 9:37–43), a woman with an 18-year “disabling spirit” which bent her in half (Luke 13:10–13), and a blind beggar (Luke 18:35–43).
  • He kept company with “tax collectors and sinners” at a time when religious leaders looked at such people with scorn and disgust. (See Luke 5:27–32, Luke 7:34, Luke 7:36–50, Luke 15:1–2, and Luke 19:1–10.)
  • In the Beatitudes, Jesus blessed those who were poor, hungry, weeping, and hated (Luke 6:20–23).
  • Jesus’s teaching on discipleship emphasized self-denial (Luke 9:23–27), selling one’s possessions to give to the needy (Luke 12:33–34), and inviting the poor, crippled, lame, and blind to a banquet instead of friends and family (Luke 14:12–14).
  • Jesus showed concern for the humiliated in his parables. In the parable of the banquet, the master brought in the poor, crippled, blind, and lame (Luke 14:15–24). The father of the prodigal ran to meet his broken and humiliated son when he returned (Luke 15:11–24). And Lazarus, a poor beggar covered with sores, was elevated to heaven while the rich man suffered in Hades (Luke 16:19–31).
  • Peter proclaimed he was willing to die for Jesus (Luke 22:33) and wanted a fight when Jesus was arrested (Luke 22:50). He didn’t want to be identified with a humiliated Jesus (Luke 22:54–62). Jesus’s look at Peter (Luke 22:61) was a quiet rebuke; following Jesus does not bring the honor of a final glorious battle, it requires the willingness to give up one’s rights and die.

After Jesus loved and cared for the humiliated through his ministry, he became humiliated at the end. He took the place of those he loved.

Our Response

Jesus knows our humiliation because he was humiliated. He is able to sympathize with every one of our conditions and weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). This is why we can draw near to his throne of grace with confidence, knowing that we’ll find all the mercy we need (Hebrews 4:16).

Jesus also calls us to willingly suffer humiliation for others. As we lower ourselves, giving up money or time or status, we elevate others.

In this, we embrace the pattern of Jesus, who suffered to save his enemies (including us, Romans 5:10). We also depend on (and demonstrate) the power of Jesus. Embracing humiliation for others is not natural; only after we have been changed can we seek out the lower place by the gracious work of the Spirit.

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Links for the Weekend (7/10/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

4 Ways Not to Be a Jerk Online

Unfortunately, not many people (even Christians) focus on God’s command to “honor everyone” when they interact with others online. Matt Smethurst gives us guidance for loving God and our online neighbors.

Crafted in God’s image, every person possesses infinite dignity and worth—and should be treated as such. This can be easy to forget when scrolling through a comment section or staring at a little headshot. But pixels can never shrink personhood. Our online interactions must reflect this fact.

Unity Rather Than Uniformity

Here is a good word from Christine Hoover. She writes about her reaction to a friend with whom she disagreed regarding an issue of secondary importance. Her warning about the “drive toward uniformity in secondary issues” within a church is important.

If our convictions cause grief or cause another to stumble, which can easily happen when we campaign for our secondary choices to become primary, we aren’t walking in love or grace. In other words, our freedom isn’t the highest priority in the kingdom of God. We aren’t to put our convictions above love.

A Habit You Didn’t Know You Needed

At For The Church, Katie McCoy writes about the little-known (and even less-practiced) spiritual practice of silence.

In his book, The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster shows how practicing silence and solitude is not just for Himalayan monks. In fact, our need for quiet goes even deeper than getting away from outside noise. Pursuing God with this kind of solitary silence always involves actively listening to God. “Simply to refrain from talking, without a heart listening to God, is not silence.” It’s an attitude of the heart, a lifestyle of “de-cluttering” the day so that we can hear God more clearly.


Thanks to Maggie A for her help in rounding up links this week!

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (7/3/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Christ Our Rock and Refuge

Christina Fox highlights some of the Psalms which refer to God as a rock. She writes about how helpful this image of God has been for her over the last several uneasy months.

Christ is the fulfillment of all God’s promises to be our rock and fortress. He is our true shelter and dwelling place. He is the answer to the psalmist’s cry for salvation and deliverance. He rescued us from sin and death. He united himself to us through faith in his life, death, and resurrection. He made us his own. He is our place of safety. Our refuge. Our strength. Our fortress.

Listen Quickly, Think Slowly

Craig Thompson applies the wisdom of James 1:19 to life in modern America, and he writes about some of the implications of being slow to think (not just slow to speak).

Slow thinking doesn’t fit well within the age of social media and immediate news. Slow thinking looks more like philosophy and conversation and less like soundbites and tweets. Slow thinking looks like books and newspapers, coffee shop conversations, and complicated intellectual wrestling matches. Slow thinking takes hard topics and resists the temptation to boil them down to their least common denominator and instead wrestles with the hard and complicated truths.

How Can I Be Free from Materialism?

Here’s an eight-minute episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast in which John Piper talks about materialism from Hebrews 10:34.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Surprising Transformation of the Disciples of Jesus. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

The Surprising Transformation of the Disciples of Jesus

Jesus’ disciples were not at their best at the end of his life. They were fearful, uneasy, and uncertain about the future.

And yet, at the end of the Gospels, these same men were ready to take on the world. How can we explain this difference?

The Disciples Before

For most of the last chapter of Luke, the disciples were not exactly full of faith.

When the women who visited the tomb told the apostles what they had seen, the men did not believe them—it sounded like an “idle tale” (Luke 24:11). Peter was curious, but he didn’t have much company when searched out the evidence (Luke 24:12, John 20:8).

The two disciples on the road to Emmaeus were intrigued by the women’s report (Luke 24:22), but they had lost hope in Jesus as the Redeemer of Israel (Luke 24:21). His death was unexpected and disheartening.

When Jesus appeared to his disciples, they thought he was a spirit (Luke 24:37). They were full of fears and doubts (Luke 24:38). Even after Jesus showed them his hands and feet and invited them to touch his wounds, they weren’t convinced it was him (Luke 24:41).

The Disciples After

The end of Luke 24 stands in stark contrast to its beginning.

The disciples witnessed Jesus’ ascension, worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy (Luke 24:51–52). They were continually in the temple praising God (Luke 24:53).

The fact that the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy is itself an act of faith. In Luke, Jesus spent the first part of his ministry teaching and healing in Galilee, but then “he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).

Things unraveled quickly after Jesus and his companions arrived in Jerusalem for Passover. Jesus was betrayed, arrested, tried, and killed. The religious and governmental leaders who were responsible were largely still present in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday; this would have made the city a terrifying place for Jesus’ followers.

Yet Jerusalem was to be the launching place for the proclamation of the gospel to all the nations (Luke 24:47). Jesus told his disciples to stay in the city until they received power for this mission (Luke 24:49). The fact that they faced staying in a dangerous place with “great joy” shows the magnitude of their transformation.

So, what caused the change?

The Elements of Change

As we observe the text of Luke 24, we notice three ingredients that kindled the disciples’ growth.

The Word of God

Jesus’ followers did not understand the Scriptures. Consequently, they did not grasp who he was nor did they expect him to suffer, die, and rise.

At the tomb, the angels reminded the women that Jesus had told them that he “must” die and rise (Luke 24:6–8).

Jesus told the Emmaeus-bound disciples that they were foolish and slow to believe what the prophets had spoken (Luke 24:25). He explained that it was “necessary” for the Christ to die and then enter glory (Luke 24:26). He then taught them about himself through all the Scriptures (Luke 24:27).

When Jesus appeared to the disciples, he reminded them that everything in the Law, Prophets, and Psalms “must” be fulfilled (Luke 24:44). He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45).

God’s word is the central corrective element in this passage. Jesus, the angels, and Luke all point to the Scriptures for a proper understanding about the Messiah. That understanding brought transformation.

Jesus

The disciples heard rumors of Jesus’ resurrection, but they were changed when they finally saw him.

After the two traveling disciples recognized Jesus at a meal, they felt conviction like heartburn when they reflected on his Scripture lesson for them (Luke 24:32). They returned to the eleven with the ground-breaking news (Luke 24:33), and when they arrived, the others were convinced of the resurrection because Jesus had also appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34).

When Jesus “stood among” the disciples, they weren’t convinced it was him (Luke 24:36–37). But Jesus invited them to touch and see. He showed them his hands and feet. He ate with them (Luke 24:39–43). Thus convincing the disciples that he was not a spirit and that he was, in fact, Jesus, he gave them supernatural understanding of the Scriptures (Luke 24:45).

Finally, the disciples went with Jesus to Bethany for his ascension (Luke 24:50). He blessed them as they watched him depart (Luke 24:51).

The disciples had experienced a traumatic stretch of days. At the center of their disappointment was the death of their leader and their loss of hope. Spending time with and learning from Jesus between his resurrection and ascension had a powerful effect.

A Mission and a Promise

When Jesus visited the disciples, he didn’t only give them instruction and fellowship, he gave them a purpose for the future.

When explaining the Scriptures, Jesus said “it is written” that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). And the disciples were not just messengers but “witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48).

Jesus gave the disciples a promise to accompany their mission.

And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)

The disciples had a great task in front of them, but there was a mighty helper on the way.

Main Point and Application

Luke had at least one main point in writing the last chapter of his Gospel: An encounter with the resurrected Jesus will transform disciples and prepare them for a joyful mission.

We can start to apply this powerful truth by praying. Let’s pray for these encounters—for ourselves and others.

And as you brainstorm ways to bring yourself and your neighbors into contact with the risen Christ, remember that he is powerfully present in the Bible and with his people.

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Links for the Weekend (6/26/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

Keith Mathison reflects on what the behavior of Christians during crises communicates to the unbelieving world. Will we wring our hands in panic, or will we trust the Lord, who controls all things?

Christians need to be encouraged by what God has revealed to us in Scripture, and that is the fact that the enemy simply cannot win and will not win – even if he kills us. Re-read Revelation 20–22 if necessary. The enemy is already on death row. His judgment is sure. Whatever happens here and now, however difficult it may be to experience, is part of God’s sovereign plan that ultimately ends with the final judgment of the enemy and our inheritance of a new heavens and new earth where we will be face to face with the Lord Jesus Christ forever.

Let’s Talk: Battling Discontentment

The Gospel Coalition has launched a limited-run podcast for women featuring discussions between Jasmine Holmes, Melissa Kruger, and Jackie Hill Perry. Check out this episode on contentment.

Be an Intentional Encourager

This is a helpful meditation on Hebrews 10:24 by Cindy Matson. She views the verse in the context of the book, and gives attention to each of the author’s commands. I commend this teaching on encouragement.

However, in another sense, I am responsible, particularly for the brothers and sisters in my local church. I am accountable to them. I am obligated to intentionally find ways to give them reasons to love God, their neighbor, and their enemy; and to do good deeds. The writer of Hebrews tells us that this doesn’t happen by accident. If I don’t carefully consider how I’m going to do it (and of course then do it), I’ll never get around to it. Rarely, do we accidentally stumble into godliness.


Thanks to Maggie A for her help in rounding up links this week!

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (6/19/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Of Oceans, Thimbles, and Talking to Your Kids about Death

When death is in the news—at it is during the time of a global pandemic—it may be a good opportunity to talk to our children and grandchildren about death. This takes care, of course, but Alasdair Groves shares a truth he learned from his mother that will help. He also passes along very practical advice about talking to children about death.

So especially if you’ve never talked about death with your kids before, I’d encourage you to find a time soon to ask them what they are thinking about the coronavirus, death, and what scares them about it. Few things are more comforting to a child than knowing that it’s ok to talk about their fears. (It’s ok to share your own fears, too.) Even if you’ve talked to them about death before, it’s still a great time to look for, or even create, chances to have open conversations about the biggest problem any of us will ever face and the Good and Gentle Shepherd who laid down his life to rescue his sheep.

White Flags in Peru: How the Church Is Caring for Coronavirus Victims

I hope you’ll be as encouraged as I was reading this article. I love to hear about God’s miraculous provision and his church’s loving care of people in need. This article describes how a church in northern Peru is helping its community handle both food and medical emergencies related to the coronavirus.

The operating conviction for ongoing action in our homes and community is not only that God is a good and faithful Father who provides, but also that prayer is the power that moves his heart and hand. In our home we began daily prayer meetings to seek God’s favor and provision for our family, church, and community. It was not long before generous donations began coming from unexpected people and places. In a time when we should have been struggling and paralyzed, we moved forward in boldness with the ability to provide for and encourage more than 400 families with over 600 bags of food.

The power of reading…slowly

Tony Payne shares how the shutdown of COVID-19 has forced him to slow down in some important ways. In particular, he writes about how using a different (and older) translation of the Bible has helped him to notice details that escaped him in the past.

There is no question that the NIV is easier to read, just as white rice is quicker and easier to cook and goes down more smoothly than brown. And just as there is a time for white rice, so there is a time for simpler modern translations (such as reading aloud in church). But chewing over the RV has enabled me to metabolize the riches of God’s word more slowly and appreciatively.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Right-Now Blessings of the Kingdom of God. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

The Right-Now Blessings of the Kingdom of God

Christians have a sure hope of heaven. Because Jesus has paid for our sin and we have received his righteousness, we are children of God who will be with our Father forever.

That’s wonderful! But, some might ask, what’s in it for me now?

Though most Christians don’t ask this question in polite company, many have wondered. Aren’t there some tangible, present-time benefits of being a Christian? Or must we wait entirely for heaven?

We Have Left Our Home

Jesus addresses this matter with his disciples on the heels of his interaction with the rich ruler in Luke 18. The ruler wants to do something to inherit eternal life, and Jesus pokes his finger where it hurts.

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)

The ruler leaves in grief because he is so wealthy, and Jesus notes how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. This doesn’t rule out the possibility of prosperous Christians, however, because “what is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

Peter then says, “See, we have left our homes and followed you” (Luke 18:28). Peter must be thinking back to Jesus’s words in verse 22. We have done what the ruler did not. What does that mean for us?

Jesus’ reply is stunning.

And he said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:29–30)

There is eternal life to come, but the blessings of the kingdom of God start now. And those blessings are abundant.

Blessings in this Time

We can almost hear the gears turning in Peter’s head. What is it that we receive now?

Jesus is not talking about wealth. That wouldn’t make sense in the context of leaving house and family, and it doesn’t fit after the warning about material riches.

There are probably hundreds of gifts we could discuss, but let’s focus on three.

The Freedom from the Grip of Idols

If an idol is anything (even a good thing) that occupies a commanding place in one’s heart, then the ruler made an idol of his wealth. Jesus told him to sell everything—not because this is a universal command to all believers, but because Jesus wanted the ruler to confront his idol. Sadly, the ruler was devoted to his riches.

When we follow Jesus, we start down the path of freedom from our idols. Jesus calls us to this freedom and gives us the power to make this freedom happen.

To determine the idols that occupy our hearts, we must ask ourselves: Where do I turn for refuge, safety, comfort, or escape? What brings me hope or causes me despair? It could be family, reputation, achievement, politics, or work. It might be a dozen other things.

If you’ve identified one or more idols here, don’t despair. It simply means that you are a human being. Jesus is eager to help idolatrous humans like us!

The Church

In the first century, a disciple who left his family (Luke 18:29) was leaving virtually all of his friends and contacts. With a few exceptions, he probably didn’t know any other disciples, but he was so compelled by Jesus that it didn’t matter.

We may lose family and acquaintances when we follow Christ, but we gain so much more. Christians who have joined a healthy, local church know the joy of belonging to a new family (Matt 12:46–50).

The people in the church are our brothers and sisters (Rom 8:29). They care for us; they help us with physical, emotional, and spiritual needs; they share a mission and a vision with us. In prayer, in gathering around the Scriptures, they point us toward the most important things in life—loving God and loving our neighbors.

The Presence of God

The disciples walked the same roads as Jesus. This was its own blessing—they learned from and were cared for by the Son of God! This is the very gift Jesus wanted to give the ruler in Luke 18.

And this gift is just as present for us. We have the Holy Spirit, and Jesus said that in some ways we have it better than his first-century followers.

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

The presence of God—lost in the garden of Eden, accessible to a select few in the tabernacle and temple, described and promised in the psalms and prophets—is a real, glorious gift for Christians right now.

Not Just in the Age to Come

The best earthly blessings resonate with us because they offer a foretaste of heaven. Freedom from sin, the fellowship of believers, the presence of God—we long to have these gifts in full!

But the good news of this passage is that leaving everything to follow Jesus has benefits now. These present-time blessings strengthen us, encourage us, and develop our affections for eternity.

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