As a local church pastor, I am tasked with developing mature disciples of Jesus Christ, and as a Christian for almost 40 years, I have been taught that the best way to do that is primarily through Bible-study programs; The thinking being that if people know more, they will act accordingly. Yet the pandemic, and the subsequent and increasingly divisive behavior of many, have driven me to re-examine that narrative: If our existing discipleship pathway was so effective, why is it that today we see such disunity in the wider church? Why do we see a great dropping off in church attendance and even less regard for Jesus in our communities?

When Jesus went about forming His band of disciples, He didn’t do that by renting a building and holding classes. He did that by asking folks to follow Him while He was on mission. That simple observation seems to have gotten lost on us. Sure, Jesus taught them everywhere He went. But He also sent them out long before they were spiritual mature. Read Luke 9 and 10; The path to spiritual maturity does not lead to becoming a witness and subsequent missional engagement. The path to spiritual maturity IS witnessing and missional engagement!

One could even say that is how the Christ-life begins. Romans 10 says in part, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”[1] If you read that carefully you find that Scripture is very clear on this point – a saving faith is a communicated faith. So then, the Christ-life starts with a personal confession of a private faith, and it is sustained as we testify of what God is doing in our lives and saying to us. 

Moreover, the risen Christ said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem AND in all Judea AND Samaria, AND to the end of the earth.”[2] The Lord means that each of us are to have a witness in multiple places at the same time. That is not as impossible as it might sound – we all have family, friends, co-workers and random folks we come across every week, so we can know we have multiple circles of influence at the same time. God has providentially provided us with manifold opportunity, because our Father wants us to grow in Christ. 

It is helpful that the church teaches evangelism from time to time. But perhaps in this season we as church leaders should resist the urge to pick up all of the programs we dropped during Covid, and use that time instead to practice and mentor evangelistic witness. If we are want to have a better and greater impact for our Lord in the years ahead, we need to spend a whole lot less time preaching denominational distinctives and a whole lot more time coaching and mentoring others to be better and more fruitful witnesses. In this post-pandemic environment, every local church must be a missional church, and the local church leadership must consider the equipping of God’s people for works of missional service their primary task. 

After all, that is the primary way in which true discipleship takes place. 


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Ro 10:9–10). (2016). Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Ac 1:8). (2016). Crossway Bibles.

Finding Grace in Labour (Matthew 17:25-27)

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Peter has just been asked by the tax collectors if Jesus pays the temple tax.  Peter had  replied positively, perhaps simply to get them off their backs. “When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?” “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.””

Peter may have spoken without truly thinking, but Jesus is gracious to both him and the tax collectors. Even though it is foolish in the extreme to tax God and His servants for the operation of a temple that is built in God’s honor, Jesus nevertheless complies. He knows that a small sum of money simply isn’t worth getting into an argument about. It would become a distraction to what He is doing. It could easily take the people’s minds off what God was doing. Worse, arguing about the injustice of temple tax would no doubt cause trouble for and dishonor the temple servants, who were simply going about temple business. For these reasons (and likely more), Jesus tells Peter that they will pay the tax, “so that we may not offend them.”

However, the greater lesson to be learned here is not that we should grudgingly pay taxes. It is that in the Kingdom of God, God provides. More than that, God provides by telling us to do exactly what we love to do. Jesus knew that Peter was a fisherman at heart. Peter loved fishing. So He tells Peter to go fishing, even though both Jesus and Peter would immediately remember that Jesus had called Peter away from fishing for fish. But while Peter was now a new kind of fisherman – a fisherman who catches people instead of fish – catching actual fish is forever part of who Peter is. It is his history. It is something Peter knows how to do without thinking, so it would likely remain a hobby – a way to relax. But it is nevertheless a highly profitable time – albeit short, because the very first fish he catches will have exactly what the tax collector is looking for. 

When you are in the Kingdom of God, your time is split between doing something you love – which provides the needed resources – and doing the work of ministry, which puts you out of your comfort zone for God’s glory. It is not one or the other. The Spirit of God is at work in both. In the one, He uses our natural and learned skills to amply provide for both us and those we support. In the other, the spiritual gifts He has given us come to play in full force as we rely on His Spirit to do what only He can do. 

In both, God is glorified. In both, we experience His providential grace. In both, we are able to bless others by His power. That is the Kingdom of God. 

God is good, all the time. Amen.

Enjoying the sense of using a God-given gift in the service of him and others can bring great contentment.

Graham Cole

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Let us worship God in all we do – be it work or hobby!

Just Pay The Tax (Matthew 17:24-25)

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In many societies, every day is tax day. In Canada we have tax on income  and tax on  what we buy after we’re taxed. We have tax on the expense of birth and tax on the expense of death – we even have tax on the dirt used to fill the grave. We have tax on the home we own and tax on the food we eat. We have tax upon tax upon tax. All of that is to pay for the services and infrastructure that the government provides, but the sheer volume of taxes is enough to cause most everyone to wonder  – at least from time to time – how they can avoid paying so much tax

We might think this is a modern problem. But it is not. Even Jesus and His disciples had to pay taxes, and just like in our day, not all of those taxes were ‘fair’; “After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”  “Yes, he does,” he replied.”

Commentator John Holland explains, “On the basis of the precedent of Ne. 10:32–33 (where the people committed themselves to an annual temple tax of one-third of a shekel) and the stipulation in Ex. 30:12–16 (originally a census levy to Yahweh, designated for the service of the tent of meeting, of half a shekel for each male over twenty, serving as a ransom to ward off the plague that the pride of conducting a census might otherwise bring) a custom had arisen, and was being defended in Jesus’ day as a requirement of the Law, of levying an annual temple tax on males over twenty to finance offerings in the temple made on behalf of the whole people. Provision was made for collecting the tax locally and sending the gathered monies on to Jerusalem. The collection period was about a month, leading up to Passover. The tax was used to provide offerings in the temple on behalf of the whole people. Clearly not everyone paid the tax. The priests considered themselves exempt (m. Šeq. 1:4), some Jews were simply lax, and not everyone agreed that such a tax was mandated by the Law. […] Though not a particularly heavy tax (two days’ wages for a labourer), it sat on top of the rest of the tax burden and would have been very difficult for the unemployed or beggars to raise.

Peter’s response to the tax collectors was that yes, Jesus did pay the temple tax. Of course, the idea that God should pay a tax to help pay for the sacrifices for His people in His own temple is ludicrous. Jesus is both the Son of God and the Lamb of God. It is He who the people are appealing to in their temple prayers, and it is He who is the true sacrifice for the people. He is the One to whom each temple sacrifice pointed. He is the One who receives the sacrifice, and the One in whose honor the sacrifice is made to start with. That Jesus – and by extension, His disciples – should have to pay this tax is the very epitome of foolish injustice. 

Nevertheless, Jesus does pay the tax. He knows that to provoke the ruling authorities’ anger over the minor inconvenience of a few days wages is unwarranted. 

As long as we live in a fallen world, if we can pay, we should pay. Even if it is foolish in our eyes, and even if it is ironically unjust in God’s eyes. For today we live under a worldly economy. But in the coming Kingdom, we will live in the economy of God. Then we will not pay taxes, yet we will nevertheless offer gift and sacrifice of time and talent for all He has done for us. 

Resisting Rome at every turn misinterprets God’s kingdom, as though its goal were to overthrow earthly government. Collaborating for the sake of personal benefit also misinterprets God’s kingdom, as though its goal were to avoid conflict and to carve out an easy life. Faithfulness to God’s reign means living by values different from those of the political rebels but also different from those of the collaborating politicians. Jesus’ ultimate answer is “Give to God what is God’s, come what may!”

Timothy J. Geddert

APPLICATION: Intentionality

A good part of living for God’s coming Kingdom here and now is being willing to part with the worldly kingdom we are part of. Let us not bring disrepute to the Name by engaging in questionable practices of evasion. 

Trusting Him (Matthew 17:22-23)

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“When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is  going to be  betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.”

This is the second time that we read of Jesus telling His disciples of His destiny. The first time was just before the Transfiguration. This is shortly after. The first time He mentioned it, “Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law.” This time He noted that He will be betrayed “into the hands of men.” 

The widening of the circle is deliberate. Jesus wants His disciples to realize that it is not only their own people group who are at the center of His suffering. It is not just one generation of Jewish people (who happened to live in Israel at the time) who are responsible for His betray, suffering, and death. It is all peoples, living everywhere in every generation. Jesus comes not to die for the sin of one, but for the sin of all. Likewise, it is not just the Jewish people who will celebrate His resurrection – but rather, all who look to Jesus as their Christ. 

This news fills the disciples with grief. But it is not grief that their own people are those who cause Jesus to suffer. Nor is it that Jesus will suffer for all peoples. Rather, it is grief that He keeps speaking about something that still doesn’t make any sense to them. Luke puts it much more bluntly, “But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.” 

The disciples were grieved that they collectively were not able to grasp what He was telling them. The whole idea of Jesus being ‘handed over’ didn’t make any sense. Why would it? The Jesus they knew had walked through a crowd that had tried to throw Him down a cliff (see Luke 4:28-30). The Jesus they knew had simply walked away from the Pharisees who were seeking His blood (see Matthew 12:14-15). He had very courageously confronted them repeatedly (see Matthew 12:24-27). He knew when to withdraw (see Matthew 14:12-13) and when to speak out (see Matthew 15). So why would the Jesus they knew – the Jesus who revealed Himself to them as God’s Son – why would this Jesus allow Himself to be betrayed, to suffer and to die? 

The answer to that question is the same as the answer to the question of why we suffer when our Father in heaven is all powerful and all knowing. The uncomfortable fact is that suffering is part of God’s sovereign plan. Though we can often avoid or escape it, in its time is not something that can be escaped, nor something that ought to be avoided. In its time, it accomplishes God’s perfect will. For that reason Jesus does not even try to explain how it works to His disciples. For now, He simply wants them to know that it is coming and that He is aware of it. On the other side of the cross, it will all make sense. 

But until we are on the other side, suffering is a mystery simply we have to trust God for. Yet every disciple can look at the suffering of Christ and know; God is good, God is kind, and God only puts His people through suffering as part of His larger plan. Somehow, it is worth it in the end. Or as God puts it, “Those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

God is not a sadist who finds joy in causing pain. The writer of Hebrews expresses a parallel thought when he says, “The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Hebrews 12:6). With eyes of faith one can see God’s goodness and faithfulness even through the darkest veils of human tragedy.

Larry Pechawer


God the Son died for us, and that while we were still His enemies. How much more then, should we be willing to suffer for His sake? 

Overcoming (Matthew 17:20)

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“Nothing will be impossible for you.” Jesus’ comment to His disciples as they  walk away  from the base of the Mount of Transfiguration is just one of a long line of similar exhortations in Scripture. God has repeatedly told His people that they are His people, that He is with them and therefore they can and must do all that He tells them to do. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. It doesn’t mean there won’t be opposition. In fact, Jesus’ comment is made right after the disciples have faced the demonic while they were physically apart from Him. So while we may feel a level of fear or uncertainty, we must know that when we go to obey God, victory is assured. 

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.”

God’s people know these things. The Psalmist said, “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” And Paul said, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Indeed, every story of victory in both Old Testament and New Testament is the story of God’s people hearing God and obeying God – often in spite of fierce opposition. 

It takes courage to be a faithful disciple. Not just courage to stand in the face of opposition, but courage to overcome the fleshly desire for anonymous safety. For God calls us not to stand in the shadows, but to lead others to Himself. That means walking in faith and prayer, even when all around you are not. That means overcoming spiritual opposition (such as the demonic the disciples have just faced). That means becoming known and speaking out for His glory. The Christ-life is a life largely lived in the open. It is a life entirely lived in the knowledge that God has saved, empowered and commissioned us to do what is completely and utterly impossible without Him. 

Nothing is impossible for the disciple of God because – as the archangel Gabriel said, “Nothing is impossible with God.”


We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.

Chuck Swindoll

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

God is with you in power when you are about His purposes.

Exercising Faith (Matthew 17:18-20)

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Jesus is a perturbed at His disciples. Coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration   with Peter, James and John, He found the rest of them arguing with the teachers of the law while a man with a possessed son wondered why they could not drive the demon out. Jesus casts the demon out with a rebuke. “Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”” 

Earlier, Jesus had commissioned all twelve of His disciples, saying, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” The disciples did that (see Luke 9:10). Subsequently, on this occasion and with Jesus up the mountain, they found themselves again facing a demon that needed driving out. They no doubt tried as they had tried before, but this time they had not succeeded. 

Although Mark’s Gospel notes Jesus saying, “This kind can come out only by prayer,” Matthew’s Gospel account makes it clear that it was not their core methodology that was at the root of their failing. Jesus said they failed to drive it out on account of the shortness of their faith. 

Faith is that which drives us to pray, and faith is the key that unlocks the power in prayer. Jesus notes that faith by itself is powerful. It is faith in their equipment and strength that literally moves mountains as unbelieving people dig a mine. But Jesus says that those with enough faith in God can move mountains by edict. Where the disciples had faith for deliverance before, they lacked it now. That is because before, they literally had just heard Jesus tell them to do it. Now, they have to remember that Jesus previously told them to do it. That gap is the gap wherein doubt lives, and it is doubt that calls into question if we are really qualified to do what God would want us to do in the face of our present circumstance. 

A faithful life is a life that constantly remembers the Scripture. A prayerful life is a life that constantly wrestles with the Word of God spoken to us. Where the two overlap, there is no shortage of ability to deal with the demonic. There may even be enough to move mountains. But the two must overlap in the life of the disciple of God Most High. For without the operation of both faith and prayer, there will never be enough faith to do what God has assigned to us to do. We find instead that we constantly need others to remind us of our calling – and each time they do, we lose out on an opportunity to do something for the glory of God. 

One must remember and embrace the truth of our calling to exercise the faith to pursue our calling in the face of daily circumstance; “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Amen. 

Faith expects from God what is beyond all expectation.

Andrew Murray

APPLICATION: Intentionality

What is God asking you to do? Exercise your faith today! 

Ministry Priorities (Matthew 17:17)

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At the base the mount of transfiguration, Matthew records Jesus’ disappointment, ““O   unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?””

Many are those who take Jesus’ comment completely out of context. Doing so leads to seeing the comment as a sad commentary on the skeptics and unbelieving population of His day (and by extrapolation – those in our day). There is some truth in that. But in context, Jesus comment has a different flavour to it altogether. Mark’s Gospel frames it this way:

“When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked. A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” 

“O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.””  

Jesus’ lament about the generation around Him is certainly given while all around are present. But it is not just directed at the unbelievers around Him, or to the father of the demon-possessed boy He has been asked to heal. Rather, is also and perhaps more primarily directed at His own disciples (who have failed to heal the child). After all, His comment that “everything is possible for him who believes” must be understood as a rebuke to those standing within earshot who do believe. Worse, the fuller context sees the disciples arguing with the teachers of the law in the face of their failure to heal, and everyone can appreciate that arguing with others is no substitute for faithful service. 

And surely every disciple of Christ ought to know that service without prayer is never truly fruitful. 

The great people of the earth today are the people who pray, (not) those who talk about prayer.

S.D. Gordon

APPLICATION: Intentionality

It is more important to pray for the people you are planning to minister to than it is to execute the planned ministry for them. 

Unavailable (Matthew 17:14-16)

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Peter, James and John are walking back down from the Mount of  Transfiguration with  Jesus. While on the mountaintop, they had a unique and holy privilege. They had glimpsed the glory of the Son, heard the Father affirm the Son and were told by the Father to listen to the Son. Coming down from the mountain, they walk into a starkly different scene of a different father and son, “When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.””  

The difference between the two scenes could not be more dramatic. Instead of a mountaintop experience, this is a valley low point. 

Prior, Jesus the Son had been shown as full of glory and honor. But this son is shown to be possessed and suffering greatly. Prior, the Father had spoken words of affirmation over Jesus the Son. But this father asks instead for needed mercy on his son. Jesus the Son had climbed the mountain, but this son falls often into fire or water. The Father above had said He was pleased with Jesus the Son. The demon within this son hated him, and was actively seeking to extinguish his life. These contrasts are noted in the Scripture not as simple coincidences, but that we might notice them. Each has something to teach us. 

The starkest contrast however, is merely implied. It is that the disciples – as honored by the Son as they were – could not heal this man’s son. 

That fact is remarkable, most notably because these same disciples had been given authority to do exactly this kind of ministry. Matthew had taken special note of this at the beginning of the 10th chapter of his Gospel, “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” All twelve of the disciples – even Judas Iscariot – had that authority. They full well could heal this man’s son. But they had failed to do so. That could only be either because they had forgotten they had such authority, or they were afraid to use it for some reason. 

The follower of Christ is wise to pay heed to this episode in the Gospel account. We are Christ-followers and are also afforded the same authority each of the disciples had (see Matthew 28:19-20). Yet we often fail to use that authority. Why is that?

We either have forgotten the Scripture, or we are too timid to use it (which is really not believing that we truly have such authority). But Jesus expects us to know we have that authority (that’s why His impartation of it is in the Scripture for us to read to start with). And Jesus expects us to use it. John 14:12 says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” 

The real question is whether we will take up that authority and do what Jesus wants us to do, or whether we do as the disciples did in this case – which is to wait for Him to return to do it for us.  The former brings glory to Christ through us. The latter also brings glory to Christ, but not through us. Worse, it also cements the record of our unbelief in church history.

The limitation is never in God’s unwillingness to bestow, but in man’s incapacity or indifference to receive.

Eugene Russell Hendrix

APPLICATION: Intentionality

What ministry are you afraid of doing? Why? 

Coming Soon (Matthew 17:9-13)

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The Old Testament ends with ends with these words from Malachi;  “Remember the law  of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” Malachi’s prophecy confirmed what Moses had said in Deut 18:15-19, when the Lord promised to send another prophet. As this was widely taught in the Synagogues (and is to this day), all Israel understood that this coming prophet (Elijah) would herald the appearing of the eternal Kingdom. 

Of course, Peter, James and John have just seen Elijah and Moses speaking with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. That raised serious questions in their minds, because Elijah should’ve been easily visible prior to Jesus’ appearing. So they asked Jesus about this, “As they were coming down the mountain […] The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 

The disciples had forgotten what Jesus had said earlier. For when He was asked about John the Baptist, Jesus had said, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear.”  Of course, Jesus was right. “Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.” 

One wonders why the teachers of the law didn’t recognize John the Baptist as Elijah. After all, he dressed like, spoke like and called the people to repentance just as Elijah did. 19th century theologian Otto von Gerlach remark[ed]…“In this sense, Elijah had reappeared in John and in the same sense will another Elijah precede the second coming of the Lord…. in every age, the Lord has His forerunners of the order of Elijah, and especially before His final appearance.”  

So it will come to pass that before His second coming that two witnesses appear, and the Lord Himself testifies, “I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. […] These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying.” There are only two people in all of Scripture who did not taste death before ascending to glory. One is Elijah and the other is Enoch. We do not know much about Enoch, but Elijah was dressed in sackcloth and specifically prophesied to shut the sky for 3 and a half years. Perhaps Enoch was the same. Nevertheless, just as John the Baptist was killed by evil edict, so will Jesus, and so will His two witnesses (see Rev 11:6). 

Elijah and Elijah-like characters aside, Jesus’ point is clear; Misunderstanding and suffering is the common path of all who prophetically live the Christ-life. 

Those who live in the hope of the coming of the Lord to judge the world and deliver the believers will prepare themselves spiritually for that day.

Allen P. Ross

APPLICATION: Intentionality

If Christ were to return today, would you have any regrets? What would do you need to do if He were to return tomorrow?

Credibility (Matthew 17:9)

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J.I. Packer noted, “If we claim to know everything about God we overreach  ourselves, and destroy both our own credibility as witnesses and the credibility of our testimony itself.” That is true. Yet in recognizing the truth of that statement, one also realizes that there is also a line which cannot be crossed in completely honest testimony too: If what we testify of is too far out of the frame of reference of the other, we are perceived as lacking credibility, even as we accurately witness to God-honouring truth. Perhaps for that reason much of our present society rejects Christian testimony – not because it isn’t true, but because it claims a truth that is so far out of the frame of reference of the lost we testify to that it lacks credibility in their eyes. Consequently, when the devil whispers to them, “that isn’t true”, they eagerly accept Satan’s testimony instead.

Scripture warned us of this dynamic at the tail end of the story of the transfiguration of Christ. 

Peter, James and John have gone up the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. There they  saw Him transfigured – shining in glory – and overheard Him speaking to Moses and Elijah – two saints who passed into glory many centuries prior. On the way back down, Jesus gives the three saints some very solid advice; “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”” 

Should they have told them, it would’ve been nearly impossible for the other disciples to believe what Peter, James and John had experienced up on that mountain. It sounds ludicrous that Jesus’ clothes changed, or that they saw and recognized Moses and Elijah. It would’ve sounded silly that they heard the voice from the clouds, and it would’ve appeared very self-serving for them to say that the voice affirmed Jesus as God’s Son.

But after the resurrection it would be a very different case. When the proof of who Jesus is was literally right in front of them – eating and drinking and speaking to them – then hearing of what happened at the top of the mountain would be just one more evidence that Jesus always was who He said He was. It would all make sense then – but not prior to that time. Not before the resurrection. 

When you are living the Christ-life, you experience things that regular people will find hard to believe. In fact, they will find it impossible to believe if you tell them, and even will use those stories against you as proof that you are either seriously deluded, or worse – making it up as you go. But if you tell people who are also living the Christ-life those same stories, then the stories merely affirm what they already know. This is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of faith. Faith takes faith. Meaning, it takes faith to have faith  – and as we all know, faith cannot be manufactured by the hearer, no matter how well intended those speaking to them are. 

Faith is a gift of God, and that gift – sometimes large and sometimes small – is according to the proportion given by God. Those with even the smallest faith can do tremendous things, even so that nothing is impossible for them. But those without more faith cannot accept the things that those with more faith understand as present reality. At least, not until God gives them more faith – that that takes another personal encounter with Him. Just as it did for the other 8 disciples post-resurrection. 

So it is then, that after the resurrection encounter – and to all who have met Jesus personally by faith since then – the episode at the top of the mountain is a piece of history. We can receive the truth of the Scripture and know it did happen, it is understandable, and it makes sense to us – because we know and have met the risen Christ. But to those who haven’t met Him in that same way yet, that episode is the sketchiest thing they’ve ever heard. Telling the skeptics similar stories of our daily walk with Christ does not increase their faith. Rather, it devalues our credibility in their eyes.

Jesus therefore warns the three, lest their credibility and leadership among the rest suffer. We do well to likewise heed His warning.

Witness must be received, or there is an end of credible testimony.

Samuel Chadwick

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Every good conversation toward greater discipleship begins with consideration of who we are speaking to.