The Least of These – The YouTruth in Matthew 25:40

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

This verse is often quoted and, by itself, has a pretty straightforward message—we are to . But the larger passage from which this verse is taken (Matt 25: 31-46) speaks about Jesus’ Second Coming and the criteria that will be used to open up the entry door to His Eternal Kingdom. So, there’s a lot more going on than just a nice sentiment. It warrants a closer look.

You Did [it] for Me

Jesus said in the preceding verses, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink… (Matt 25:35)” This can be a little confusing because we know that Jesus is God and is, thus, never in need of anything. Yet we know that Jesus, while fully God, was also fully human. So, He experienced the burdens associated with being flesh and bone, including hunger, thirst and loneliness. Therefore, He relates to those who are

The Least of These

The phrase “the least of these” is one we should consider with great care. We must understand that “the least” is a standard applied by our broken world that counts “the least” as the losers while it proclaims others as winners. This is not God’s standard. Reaching down with a helping hand is much different than reaching out with a helping hand. “Reaching down” implies, intentional or not, that we are of a higher position and those we help are of a lower status. Don’t fall into this trap! In comparison to God, we all fall so dreadfully short of His glory that each of us is to be counted among the ranks of the “least of these” along with every single other human being. Since we are all helpless “leasts,” saved only by accepting His free gift of grace through faith in Jesus, we should be about spreading the message of that infinite gift to all of the “co-leasts” around us.

The Bottom Line—This is Eternal Business

We learn from Jesus’s teaching that caring for the helpless, the hungry, the lonely and the suffering is an eternal privilege exercised by those with eternity in their hearts. We know that we are bringing a piece of eternity into this broken world by doing so. We can hear these precious words ringing in our hearts: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matt 25:34)

Setting Sail with Thomas and Jesus

Weaving together quotes from a famous one and The Famous One

St. Thomas Aquinas said, “If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.”

Jesus said it like this in Matthew 28:19: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

When you buy a new car, it is perfect. The outside finish has the new car sparkle and shine, the inside has the new car smell. There is one (and only one) way to preserve the car in this pristine condition. Park it in a climate-controlled garage, drape a protective tarp over it, and never drive it. Now if you’ve just purchased a cherry, all-original, ’57 Chevy Bel Air convertible you might do exactly this. But most often, cars are bought to be driven. This subjects them to the dings in the door, pebbles kicked up into the windshield, and the infamous double-dip cone becoming a single-dip cone in the back seat.

When a new ship is commissioned, it is perfect. It’s hull is perfectly smooth, the deck has an unblemished coat of non-slip epoxy, and the bridge has that new-bridge smell (whatever that smells like). If the captain’s highest aim was to preserve his ship he would keep it in port. He might take the additional precaution of keeping it in dry dock and not even putting it in the water. While maintaining his ship is important, it is never the highest aim of the captain to keep it pristine. The captain is to set sail to assigned ports of call, to deliver cargo or passengers to their destinations. Thus, the ship will soon loose its new-ship sheen, the shine will dull, the hull may be damaged, barnacles may jump on for the ride.

Followers of Jesus are captains. And Jesus commands us to shove off from the dock and set sail. Our cargo is the Good News. Our ship is our life’s testimony offered as a living sacrifice to Him. Along the way, we’ll strike the floating logs of indifference, we’ll be tossed on the swells of ridicule, or even run aground in persecution’s shallow waters. But when our battered vessel comes limping into port, Jesus will not chastise us for the damage, but will say something like this: “Well done, good and faithful captain.”

Washing Hands and Coming Near – The YouTruth in James 4:8

“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinner(s), and purify your heart(s), you double-minded.” (parentheses added)

This verse starts out nice and sweet, reflecting the yearning of God to be near to you. But then, “Bam!” some not so nice stuff—accusations and a not-so-flattering assessment of your character.

This chapter in James is dealing with strife among the believers of Jesus. It was caused by fights and quarrels motivated by coveting what others have. All of this, James said, created, within the community of believers, enemies of God! James was painting a harsh picture. And then comes the verse above.

As a believer, you have to face the reality that you are, in your nature, a double-minded sinner. If it were not so, Jesus would not have had to come to earth and die on the cross for you. Now, Satan would have you believe that your sinful state is an irrevocable, hopeless situation. He loves to accuse and condemn (even though God has given Him no authority to do so). Flee from Satan’s message! Instead hear the loving message from God in this verse.

God wants you near. He longs to be in close fellowship with you all day, every day. The harsh stuff is in no way to intended to condemn or depress you. It is intended to provide His directions for drawing up close to Him. And as a bonus, He has given you the power to do the necessary work in His Holy Spirit. Think about this: do you think that His Spirit, which had the power to lift Jesus out of the grave alive, can wash your hands and purify your heart of those things that keep you distant from Him? I do!

So, do some prayerful self-reflection today. Ask the Holy Spirit for His hand-washing, heart-purifying help, and look forward to a wonderful day drawn near to God. (And repeat this often!)

The Eyes of Your Heart – The YouTruth in Ephesians 1:18

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people”  

In this passage, Paul centers his message on enlightenment. To get what Paul is driving at, we must start with the nature of light, which is at the root of the word, and the ways in which we can see it.

Presuming no visual impairment, our eyes can sense a band of radiation within a specific visible spectrum. This allows us to see the people and things around us. While this is the light we are most familiar with, it will not deliver the enlightenment that Paul is talking about, because it will only show us the physical things of this world. Paul wants us to experience a deeper, spiritual enlightenment which only comes from The Light, Jesus. This is our starting point to enlightenment—the True Light.

When we have The Light of Jesus residing within, our hearts can be enlightened, because eyes of our hearts are not limited to “seeing” as are our physical eyes. Paul carefully chooses his words to make this clear. Physical eyes see only the visible things around you. The eyes of your heart have a spiritual, eternal vision that knows Him and involves all of your senses at the very deepest level. Thus, they can “see” things that are not visible, but are nonetheless true, assured and known in the heart. This is the enlightenment that comes from knowing the hope to which He has called you, a hope only found in Him.

Here’s the cool thing about all of this: as an extension of this enlightenment, your physical eyes will actually begin to see things differently. Rather than seeing despair, pain, frustration and suffering, they will see opportunities to forgive, care, heal and love. The shopper that snatched that last product on the shelf right out from under your hands, will be seen as one who is worthy of forgiveness and grace. The dirty, cast-off homeless person on the street corner will now appear as a precious child of God worthy of your love and care.

The Light that shines out from within illuminates a very different picture than the light that comes in from the outside. It is the picture seen by an enlightened heart assured of the riches of His glorious inheritance, inspired to spread those riches around.

Be a Transformer – The YouTruth in Romans 12:3

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When we think of renewing our minds, we usually frame the activity as an intellectual exercise. Reading, studying, or taking classes are usually details of a mind-renewing plan. Accumulating knowledge and critical thinking skills seem to be effective building blocks to constructing a renewed mind. While this is all true, the flaw in our thinking on this subject, is that this is all there is. And by the world’s standards, that’s true. But as people of faith, we must understand that our brain is not the only organ involved.

Anything that is added to our mind directly from an outside source, even if that source is the Bible or a powerful sermon, will not result in the mind renewal that God so desires for us. Everything must pass through our Spirit-indwelt heart first, before it is passed on to our minds for thought, decision-making, and action. It is the direct involvement of the heart that will deliver the ability to test and approve what God’s will is. The facts alone can’t do it.

In order to achieve the huge payoff—God’s good, pleasing and perfect will—heart and mind must be tightly woven together with the thread of His Spirit’s wisdom, guidance and love. Without this, conformance to the world’s pattern is the only possible outcome. With this, all of the transformative benefits found in His perfect will await you. Conform you must, but conform to eternity instead of the world. When you do, not only will you begin to transform yourself, but you will help chip away at the pattern of the world around you, replacing it with pieces of His good, pleasing and perfect will. Now that’s transformation!

Be a transformer—a world-transforming, eternity-conforming transformer—today!

Giving God a Test – The YouTruth in Matthew 4:7

“Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Bartering with God. If we all are truly honest, we will remember times when we’ve done this.

“God, if you [fill in the blank], I’ll [fill in the blank].”

It usually happens in times of trial or struggle. If God will just get us out of this mess we’re in, we’ll vow to straighten up and never get ourselves into the same mess again.

Jesus led us by His powerful example with regard to testing God. Jesus was facing a battle greater than many we will ever face. After 40 days in the wilderness with nothing to eat, Satan shows up, with his remedy to Jesus’ hunger—he tells Jesus to use His superpowers! Then Satan ups the ante two more times with more temptations all designed to get Jesus to betray God. Jesus, of course, stands firm and does not give in to Satan’s plan.

Putting God to the test, is part of Satan’s plan for us too. He tells us to withhold praise until God does what we want. He tells us that God is a god of “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” He tells us to test God’s promises by demanding that they be delivered on our terms instead of God’s.

The main flaw in Satan’s plan is that we don’t have anything to offer God. God doesn’t need anything. He’s God. So, the whole testing and bartering thing doesn’t work. And think about this: God’s gift of grace is the gift of His infinite love for us. First, it is of infinite value, therefore there is nothing of finite value we could barter for it. Second, God’s grace is a gift. There is nothing we need to barter for it.

So when you face temptations, particularly those associated with tough times, don’t test God, just trust Him.

Whoever Publicly Acknowledges Me – The YouTruth in Luke 12:8

“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.”

Do you publicly acknowledge Jesus before others? Sometimes we are reluctant to do this, for a variety of reasons. We may not feel it is our place. We may not want to experience the backlash of criticism that may come with it. We may not know exactly how to acknowledge Him. We may even face more significant consequences or even persecution for witnessing about Jesus.

Jesus knows this.

When Jesus was teaching His disciples in this passage, they would likely face severe penalties and they could even face death if they acknowledged Him publicly.

Jesus knew this.

Why would he teach, both then and now, that we should be willing to subject ourselves to this kind of unpleasantry?

Because Jesus is up to it.

You see, Jesus is the one being attacked when skeptics reject our testimony. Jesus is the one being scorned when we acknowledge Him as our Lord.

And He is up to it.

If we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we know He has already died for us and saved us for all eternity. Skeptics and critics, atheists and even aggressive objectors can’t kill Him (again) and take that away from us. No matter how hard they try or how convinced they are that we are crazy for believing in Him, He died for us. It’s done. We are eternally saved. So we can boldly proclaim Him, in love, whenever the opportunity presents itself. And we can know that He is already proclaiming us before the angels of God.

I Have Chosen You Out of the World. Watch Out! The YouTruth in John 15:19

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

Ouch! What’s this about the world hating you? This seems like a horrible thing to face, but as it turns out, it is a blessing.

The world is a covetous, jealous, prideful place. When those of the world don’t have something they value, they are dissatisfied. In the world, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Relationships are ruined, strife is rampant. Wars are fought for the simple reason that one has what another wants and one will not give up what they have. And there you are, right in the middle of this mess. And the world hates you. Why? Two reasons:

First, you have something the world wants. You have been chosen out of the world and into the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom, insecurity and material desires are replaced by eternal hope and love. And the world desperately needs it.

Second, you play by a different set of rules. When the world wants something, it conquers those that have it. It outruns them, steals from them, hoards the desired things and builds up defenses around them. Not one ounce of the Kingdom’s blessings can come to those who use these tactics. You have secured your Kingdom blessings by doing the exact opposite. You have submitted to Jesus’ authority and allowed Him to conquer you. Through your humility, gratitude, contentment, and generosity toward others, the Kingdom is forever yours.

There is hope for the world! As you know, you were once of the world and found your way out of it. But until all find their way out too, there will be some who scoff, persecute and yes, even hate. It’s a weird way of knowing that you have gotten it right.

Allow the world to see what you have and how you have secured it today. While many will hate you for it, others will find their way out because of it. The Kingdom’s blessings far outweigh the world’s trouble!

Do You Not Know? Have You Not Heard? The YouTruth in Isaiah 40:28

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, this passage may not seem to apply to you. Of course, you know! Of course, you’ve heard! But we have to remember that Isaiah was writing this verse to the believers of his time in Israel. So God must have something to say to believers today as well.

Isaiah is writing this verse to a tired, frustrated, complaining people. They feel like God has abandoned them because they feel this way. The encouragement from Isaiah is to shift their focus from what they are currently experiencing to who God is. When we get down, dejected or weary, the same approach can be powerfully applied.

Are you tired? God is not. He is completely rested and ready to hold you up.

Are you weary? God is not. He has the power to be your strength.

Do you lack understanding for your present situation? God does not. He completely understands what is going on.

As believers, our problem is not that we don’t know that the Lord is the everlasting God. Our problem is not that we haven’t heard that He never grows tired or that His understanding is unfathomable. We know this! It’s just that we allow the clutter, noise, pain, or discouragement of a present moment to crowd out what we know. When this happens to you, ask yourself these questions more specifically:

“Do I know, in this very moment, that the Lord is the everlasting God?

“Have I heard that, in this very circumstance, He will not grow tired or weary; that He completely understands?

The answer will come back as a resounding, “Yes!”

In Christ, You Are a New Creation

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
2 Corinthians 5:17

As we turn our calendars over and embark on another new year, our thoughts turn to starting over, making things better in the coming year, resolving to change things in our lives. Often these efforts are short-lived and have little lasting positive effect on our lives. The Bible has much to tell us about making a new start that can make this New Year truly different. Let’s look at the typical approach to bringing about  change in our lives and compare it to God’s approach.

Approach 1 : Changing the old

One approach to making changes in our lives is to focus on the negative things in our lives and attempt to change them for the better. This seems rather intuitive and there is no shortage of self-help books, tapes, and lectures that will prescribe this approach. So why does it so often fail us? Because it operates under the direct influence of our sinful human nature. We enter an improvement plan with a lot of enthusiasm and energy but over time we gradually revert back to old habits and behaviors. What really happens underneath is we are in a continual battle with the very sinful nature that drew us into the negative behaviors in the first place and we simply tire from the fight and relent. We are trying to change the old.

Approach 2: Replace the old with the new

God’s approach to improvement and positive change is completely different.

It starts with the word that is central to all of God’s activity – new. God is the eternal expert on ‘new.’ All of creation was spoken into being by God, everything made new by God Himself. And God is continually making things new all the time. Let’s look at some ways He does this:

New Mercies – God extends new mercy to us each day (Lamentations 3:22-23). Each day is new opportunity to receive His lovingkindness and to start fresh. Nothing that has happened in the past, whether on the previous day or in years past, can in any way remove the love and forgiveness He has ready and waiting for us is each day. To God, every day is New Year’s Day, filled with the opportunity and promise that we tend to assign only to January 1!

New Hearts – God does not promise to change our hearts, He promises to give us new hearts and then fill them with His Spirit! (Ezekiel 36:26) The Bible likens our human, sinful hearts to stone, hard to penetrate, hard to change, well, just simply hard like stone. So rather than offering to chisel away at it, He offers to take it away and replace it with a heart that is soft, pliable and able to contain His Spirit – His very power to help us focus on those things that He focuses on.

New Creations – Armed with new hearts that are filled with His Spirit, acutely aware of His never ending mercies, we are not who we used to be, drug down by our sinful nature, but we are new creations, reborn into new lives. (John 3:3) God sent His Son Jesus into the world for the very purpose of making us new. (John 3:16) Jesus taught that patching the old wasn’t the answer, but being made new in Him was the key (Matthew 9:17).

This new year, you can truly change things by giving the old to God and letting Him replace it with the new. That’s the truth.

If you are in Christ, you have a new, soft heart filled with His Spirit. The old hard heart of stone is gone! If you are in Christ, you can confidently receive His new mercies every day. You don’t have to wait until another New Year’s Day to come around in order to start over! If you are in Christ, you are a whole new creation. The old is gone, the new has come!

 That’s the YouTruth. In Christ, You Are A New Creation.