The Mustard Seed (1)

And he said, “How shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or in what parable shall we set it forth? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown upon the earth, though it be less than all the seeds that are upon the earth, yet when it is sown, groweth up, and becometh greater than all the herbs, and putteth out great branches; so that the birds of the heaven can lodge under the shadow thereof” (Mark 4:30-32).

Many of Jesus’ teachings regarding His Kingdom were set forth in parables. This is understandable, for it is difficult for humans to wrap their heads around the realities of a spiritual Kingdom while living on the earth. We understand things best when they are compared with things we know and understand.

The Jews of first century Palestine would understand the mustard seed and the mustard plant. The mustard seed was incredibly small, about three millimeters in diameter. Nevertheless, when the mustard seed was planted and the plant grown, it far exceeds the size of other herbs, looking like a shrub or a small tree, large enough for birds in which to lodge. The mustard plant, therefore, is a story of growth explosion from a small beginning.

Jesus found the example of the mustard seed and plant quite useful and applied its lesson in different ways. In Mark 4:30-32, the mustard seed and plant represent God’s Kingdom. Its beginnings would seem rather insignificant: Jesus of Nazareth went about doing good and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom in the relative backwater of Galilee and Judea in the days of Tiberius Caesar (cf. Mark 1:15, Acts 10:38). Around Him gathered a small following of devoted disciples of whom He selected twelve to be His special representatives (Mark 3:14-19). Neither Jesus nor His representatives seemed very significant– He an unlearned son of a carpenter from Nazareth, His followers mostly Galileans, many of whom were relatively ignorant fishermen (cf. Mark 6:3, John 7:15, Mark 1:16-20, Acts 4:13). This Jesus went to Jerusalem in triumph and yet was soon executed by the Romans (Mark 11:1-10, 14:1-15:47). All of this did not seem to be that earth-shattering.

Yet, on the third day, this Jesus was raised by the power of God from the dead, and He instructed His followers in all things concerning Himself (Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-53). After He ascended to His Father, His representatives, the Twelve Apostles, received power from the Holy Spirit and began proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom in power to all the Jews (cf. Acts 2:1-36).

At first there was the One (Luke 17:20-21). Then there were 120 or so (Acts 1:15). After the first lesson there were over 3,000 (Acts 2:41). Soon after it would be 5,000 more (Acts 4:4). The message would then spread from Jerusalem throughout Samaria and Galilee (Acts 1:8, 8:4), and then throughout the Mediterranean world, and ultimately into all the world (Acts 1:8, Colossians 1:6). The Kingdom is proclaimed to this day, almost 1,980 years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth!

Thus the Kingdom is like a mustard seed: it started extremely small but expanded out into all the world, and its message and those who proclaim it are a refuge for those who despair. Let us be part of that Kingdom and promote that Kingdom in our lives!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Mustard Seed (1)

The Author of Life and the Murderer

“But ye denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed the Prince of life; whom God raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14-15).

The irony of it all was not lost on Peter.

Jesus of Nazareth did good for people– He healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, and taught excellent standards of living (Matthew 9:35, Luke 6:27-36, Acts 10:38).

Barabbas was a robber, an insurrectionist, and a murderer (Mark 15:7, John 18:40). He was in prison.

Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, the Author of life, the Word made flesh (Acts 3:14, John 1:1-3, 14).

Barabbas took life.

Jesus of Nazareth upheld the right of authority while maintaining in Himself even greater power (Matthew 22:21, John 19:12, Matthew 7:29, 8:27, 9:6, Mark 1:27).

Barabbas worked hard to undermine Roman authority and wanted nothing more than to get Rome out of Jerusalem.

Jesus was not of this world (John 1:1-14).

Barabbas most certainly was of this world.

And yet, in the end, Barabbas goes free, and Jesus dies on the cross (cf. Matthew 27, etc.).

The Jews, in their ignorance and the hardness of their hearts, demanded that Pilate hand over to them a murderer while they handed over the Author of life to be killed. One can only imagine how this line fell upon Peter’s audience– the very people who had demanded His crucifixion– and the strong impact it would have made upon those who believed it. The sudden weight of the horror of the actions they themselves had perpetrated would have suddenly fallen upon them. The terror! The horror!

But this was how God fulfilled His plan (cf. Acts 3:18)– and it was accomplished with subtle and profound irony.

Nevertheless, we should not be hard on Barabbas. After all, what Jesus did for him physically, Jesus has done for all of us spiritually. Barabbas deserved death for his deeds, but found himself released while Jesus bore the cross intended for him and died upon it. All of us deserve spiritual death and condemnation for the sins we have all committed (Romans 3:23, 6:23), but He bore the cross and the penalty of our sin so that we could be redeemed and have eternal life (Romans 5:1-11, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 2:1-18)!

We may not have sinned as grievously as Barabbas did, but Jesus endured the penalty of all such sin nonetheless. Let us praise God for His plan of salvation and the willingness to sacrifice His Son for our redemption, and serve Him!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Author of Life and the Murderer

Follow Me

And passing along by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishers.
And Jesus said unto them, “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”
And straightway they left the nets, and followed him. And going on a little further, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending the nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after him (Mark 1:16-20).

And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the place of toll, and he saith unto him, “Follow me.”
And he arose and followed him (Mark 2:14).

For Simon, Andrew, James, John, and Levi, it seemed like a usual day. They went to work as they always had. Everything was normal. The fishing for Simon, Andrew, James, and John was probably little different than usual. Levi probably had a usual day at the tax booth.

And then, out of nowhere, everything changed.

They had, no doubt, heard of Jesus of Nazareth, and the mighty works which He had done. They would have heard the whisperings and suggestions: is this the Messiah who is to come? Are God’s promises finally coming true? The prospect was, no doubt, exciting. But these were simple fishermen and a tax collector– what could the Messiah want with them?

And yet, here He is– and He summons them. He tells Simon and Andrew that He will make them fishers of men. He summons James and John and Levi with a clear and simple message– follow Me.

The call was uttered, and it was heard– what would these men do? Simon and Andrew have their own fishing business. James and John work for their father. Levi is the one manning the toll booth. They have responsibilities– Levi to Herod, James and John to their father, and Simon, if to no one else, his wife (cf. Mark 1:30). How would they survive? What about those for whom they are responsible?

These and perhaps other questions might have been on the minds of these five men. Yet notice their decisive actions– they get up and follow Him. Simon and Andrew leave their net as it is. James and John abandon their work to their father and his hired servants. Levi rises and leaves, perhaps leaving the toll booth empty. There is no hesitancy here and no looking back. The Lord has summoned them, and they follow the call, no matter where it may lead them.

Jesus would ultimately die on a cross for the forgiveness of sins, be raised in power on the third day, and ascend to the Father, where He now rules as Lord (cf. Matthew 26:29, Acts 1:1-11, Acts 2:38). His summons now goes out to every person on earth through His Gospel: follow Me (cf. Mark 16:15, Romans 1:16, 1 Timothy 2:4)!

The call has been uttered. Do you now hear it? You may stop and think about all of your obligations, all of the things that you may hold dear on the earth, and consider the many possible difficulties and dangers of the life of a disciple of Christ. You are not alone in those concerns. Nevertheless, we ought to have the same faith as Simon, Andrew, James, John, and Levi. We should rise up immediately and follow Jesus!

Jesus may not be calling you to leave your occupation, family obligations, and other such things as He did to these disciples, but He does call you to set aside the ways of sin and death in order to be conformed to His image, walking the path that He walked (Romans 6:1-10, Romans 8:29, 1 John 2:6). That will require leaving behind our old ways of thinking, our old attitudes, and many of our old habits. That will more likely than not be uncomfortable. It certainly requires faith.

Simon, Andrew, James, John, and Levi took that fateful step of faith on that day so long ago, and in earthly terms, many of them would pay dearly for it. Simon and James would eventually die for the cause of Christ, and John would suffer persecution for Jesus. Their eternal reward, however, far outweighed the difficulties they experienced on earth (Romans 8:18), and that same reward can be ours if we will take a similar step of faith.

Jesus calls you to follow Him. Will you renounce the ways of the world and serve Him today?

Ethan R. Longhenry

Follow Me

Having Favor With the People

And day by day, continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved (Acts 2:46-47).

When Christians consider the relationship that exists between them and the people in the world around them, it is easy to focus on the difficulties they present.  Since people in the world are living according to the flesh and are therefore hostile to God, unable to fulfill His law, and unable to please God (Romans 8:6-8), many such people will persecute and revile Christians (Matthew 10:17-18, 22-23; 1 Peter 3:16), not understanding why Christians set themselves apart and do not engage in licentious debauchery (1 Peter 4:4).

There are times in our lives when we will be compelled to deal with such people, and we must prepare ourselves to reflect the love of Christ even to them (cf. 1 Peter 4:12-16).  But if we were to project these negative reactions upon all people, we would go too far.  Yes, the New Testament reveals that many Christians suffered terribly at the hands of their fellow men.  But there are many other examples of times when people respected Christians!

At the end of Acts 2 we discover that the new Christians were “having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47).  This was possible because they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ doctrines, fellowship, prayer, and the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42), were together and had all things in common, selling all that they had and giving to any who had need (Acts 2:44-45), and assembling in the Temple together daily, eating in each others’ houses, receiving their food with glad and generous hearts, and praising God (Acts 2:46-47).  The people around them saw the great transformation in these Christians and were respected and appreciated for it.  Granted, it would not be long before the religious authorities would begin to persecute the Christians (cf. Acts 4-7), yet the Christians here have favor among the people.

Dorcas, or Tabitha, was full of good works and acts of charity, and when she died, all the widows mourned for their loss (cf. Acts 9:36-39).  It is also interesting to note that one of the qualifications for an overseer/elder in 1 Timothy 3:7 is that he must have “good testimony from them that are without.”  This says as much about Paul’s expectations of “outsiders” as it does about his expectation of the overseer.  Even if many people do not believe in God or obey Jesus Christ, they can respect and appreciate a man who lives by a high ethical standard, and what ethical standard is higher than the standard of Christ?  Even if they do not agree with him on religious matters, they recognize the benefit of living by conviction.

People in the world yearn to see the image of Christ reflected in Christians.  Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ,” and quite a number of people in the world entirely agree with him.  Those who claim to follow Jesus Christ ought to strive to act like Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 John 2:6).  Those who do no such thing will not obtain the blessing, and represent a hindrance to God’s purposes (Matthew 7:21-23).

Christians can have favor with the people when they reflect Christ and show the love, mercy, and compassion of Christ while remaining His humble servants.  When people are confronted with the message of Jesus Christ spoken to them by one whom they know is living that message, they will surely be impacted by the experience.  Yes, some will turn away, convicted of their sin, and will seek to justify themselves.  But many others may want to learn more because they see that the Christian has something they do not.  But this is only possible when Christians act like Christ– if Christians think and act like the world thinks and acts, there is nothing distinctive there, and therefore the person in the world cannot find the advantage to being a Christian (cf. Matthew 5:13).

The greatest testimony to the message of Jesus is the Christian whose life reflects the love, mercy, compassion, and humility of his Master.  One of the greatest hindrances to the cause of Christ are the many who profess belief in Jesus but do not reflect that love, mercy, compassion, and/or humility.  Notice the conclusion of the matter in Acts 2:47: the early Christians, being active in their association with one another, devotion to the teaching of the Apostles, love for one another, and praise toward God, have favor with all the people, and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.  It worked in the first century, and it can work today.  It is true that when Christians are like their Christ, many worldly forces stand up to resist them and persecute them.  Yet, by being like Christ, those Christians will gain favor with other people, many of whom will be receptive to the Gospel of Christ, and God will add to the number of those being saved.  All of this is contingent, however, on Christians acting like Jesus!

Let us, therefore, gain favor with those with whom we are able to gain favor through reflecting the love and humility of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Having Favor With the People

Feet Bearing Good News

Behold, upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! Keep thy feasts, O Judah, perform thy vows; for the wicked one shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off (Nahum 1:15).

The Assyrian menace had haunted Israel for almost two hundred years. The Assyrians were notorious fighters, renowned for their cruelty. In 732, most of the northern Kingdom of Israel succumbed to their strength. In 722, Samaria was destroyed, and the rest of the northern Kingdom of Israel was ended (cf. 2 Kings 17). By 701, the Assyrians had turned against Judah, and the bloodbath was severe: the fortified cities of Judah destroyed save Jerusalem, spared by God’s intervention (cf. 2 Kings 18-19).

Not long afterward, the Assyrians exiled all of the Israelites out of the northern tribal areas, and imported other people to live there. The Kingdom of Judah, despite escaping with its survival, still had to contend with the existence of the Assyrian power. The Assyrians could come out and make another campaign at any time!

Yet, stunningly, in 621 BCE, the Assyrian Empire was entirely overthrown at the hands of the Medes and Babylonians. Nineveh was destroyed. The Assyrian menace was no more.

Nahum foresees that day and the messenger sent to proclaim the good news to the people of Judah. The great enemy of the people of God has been vanquished! The people can keep their feasts and perform their vows, for the great power that was opposed to them had fallen. One can imagine the festivities and the celebrations that the people of Judah would have enjoyed!

We also have a message of good news that brings peace. There is a menace that has haunted mankind for thousands of years– the menace of sin and death. Almost everyone has fallen prey to sin and death, and they have caused great suffering (Romans 5:12-18, 8:2-9). Yet God has vanquished these enemies through the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21-22, 1 Corinthians 15:55-58)! Those who believe in Him and obey His Gospel can share in that victory (John 3:16, 1 Peter 1:22).

Do we consider that message to be good news? Do we now rejoice in our salvation, and seek to do His will, as Judah was to keep its festivals and pay vows? Do we proclaim this message and make it clear for everyone? Are we trying to persuade people to become children of God and gain the victory over sin and death?

In the end, God always vanquishes all that which is opposed to Him. Let us stand with God and not against Him, and proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Christ!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Feet Bearing Good News


“Hear then ye the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the evil one, and snatcheth away that which hath been sown in his heart. This is he that was sown by the way side. And he that was sown upon the rocky places, this is he that heareth the word, and straightway with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while; and when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, straightway he stumbleth. And he that was sown among the thorns, this is he that heareth the word; and the care of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. And he that was sown upon the good ground, this is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; who verily beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:18-23).

The Parable of the Sower is one of Jesus’ most famous parables. Its meaning resonates for us today.

The sower is the preacher of the Gospel of Christ– the message of His life, death, resurrection, and Kingdom (cf. Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5). The seed is that message. The focus of the parable, however, is on the different types of soils.

The “road soil” is quite hard, and the Word finds no room to take ground within it. Such are the unbelievers who choose to stay that way. They do not understand– or do not want to understand– Jesus’ message of humility, service, and turning from sin. The Evil One keeps them in his grip (cf. John 8:44-47).

So go the unbelievers. The next three types of soil feature believers and their fruit.

The “rocky soil” are those who hear the Word, believe and obey it, and start well. The Word is not deeply founded, however, and whenever difficulty arises– persecution for the Name, economic distress, physical suffering, or some other calamity– they turn away from their faith. It may take days, months, or even years for this difficulty to come, but when it does, the shallowness of that believer’s faith is made evident. Their faith is tested– and it fails.

The “thorny soil” also hear the Word and believe it and obey it. They recognize that Jesus is the Christ and know that they should devote themselves to spiritual things. But they have busy lives. They may be devoting themselves to some idol– money, fame, recreation, or some other pleasure. They may be so devoted to the needs of their physical family, friends, and the like that they do not make the time for spiritual matters. Since the Kingdom is not made a priority, their faith weakens and dies. Misplaced and misguided priorities lead to the end of their faith.

The “good soil” are those who hear the Word, believe it, obey it, and make spiritual things their first priority. Difficulties and temptations come, and their faith is tried, but they persevere and grow (James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:3-9). They have plenty of obligations in the world, but they realize that their obedience to Christ is first and foremost and can be accomplished within their other obligations (cf. Ephesians 5:22-6:9). According to their gifts and service, they produce fruit: some thirtyfold, others sixtyfold, some one hundredfold. As humble servants, they praise God for all that He accomplishes, and participate joyfully in their specific role (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-28). Those producing a hundredfold do not look down upon the those with sixtyfold or thirtyfold, and the latter are not jealous of the former.

Let the one who has ears hear. We can see these responses to the Word in action in our own lives and the lives of those around us. We may seem to be “good” soil but turn out to be “rocky” soil. The thorns of the world are always around us. On the other hand, possibly “rocky” soil may turn and become “good” soil. In the end, let us be the good soil, producing for the Lord, with God giving the increase (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7)!

Ethan R. Longhenry


The Two Sons

“But what think ye? A man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, ‘Son, go work to-day in the vineyard.’ And he answered and said, ‘I will not:’ but afterward he repented himself, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir:’ and went not. Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They say, “The first.”
Jesus saith unto them, “Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye saw it, did not even repent yourselves afterward, that ye might believe him” (Matthew 21:28-32).

Jesus’ parable of the two sons is a rather uncomfortable parable. We find ourselves reflected in at least one of the sons.

The first son begins as the rebellious one. He dares to refuse to do the will of his father, but then realizes his mistake, and turns and does what his father desires. We can see that this son does, eventually, do the will of his father, as it is said in Matthew 21:31.

The first son demonstrates the importance of repentance and the hope that exists for those who have rebelled against God. He is very much like the “prodigal son” in Luke 15:11-32. At some point, each and every one of us refused the call of our Father and went our own way (Romans 3:23), but thanks to His love and grace, we can be reconciled back to God in Christ (Titus 3:3-7). And then we must get to work, just as the first son did (Titus 3:8)!

Yet it is the second son that is the focus of this parable. In context, it is a condemnation of the religious authorities who certainly professed belief in God and yet rejected John His prophet and Jesus His Son (Matthew 21:23-27, 21:33-46). They were willing, as the second son, to tell the Father “yes,” and yet they did not do what He told them to do!

Jesus’ conclusion is sharp and biting, just as it was intended. The people whom everyone recognized were great sinners were going to enter the Kingdom before the “holiest” and most respected religious authorities! Tax collectors and prostitutes were willing to humble themselves, listen to John and Jesus, and change their ways (cf. Luke 7:36-50, 19:1-9). The religious authorities refused!

It is better that we find ourselves to be like the first son. God is more concerned with our action than our profession– it does not do us any good to claim that we are followers of Jesus if we are not actually doing what Jesus says to do (Matthew 7:21-23, James 1:22-25)! We must never allow ourselves to become like the religious authorities and become self-righteous, for repentant sinners always get further than self-righteous hypocrites before God (Matthew 9:11-13, Luke 18:10-14)!

In the end, we cannot tell God “yes” and yet do nothing. If we tell God “yes,” that we believe in Him and that He is our Lord, and yet we do not preach the Gospel to our fellow man (Romans 1:16), or we do not show him mercy and kindness in his time of need (Galatians 6:10), or we do not encourage fellow Christians (Hebrews 10:24-25), or we do not show love and compassion as His Son did (Colossians 3:12-14), what do you think will happen to us (Matthew 7:21-23)? How can we expect to receive God’s blessings if we do not do what He tells us to do?

Who are we? Are we the first son who once refused God but have learned better and now do His will? Or are we as the second son, always willing to say yes, but in the end do nothing? Let us be as the first son, do the will of the Father, and be saved!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Two Sons

The Tender Heart

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).

As human beings, we tend to allow our feelings and emotions to color the way we view people. If we are favorably disposed toward someone, we are more likely to be kind to them, trust them, and always give them the benefit of the doubt. If we are unfavorably disposed toward someone, we are not as likely to be as kind to them. We will not trust them, we will look upon them with suspicion and maybe fear, and we certainly will not give them the benefit of the doubt!

This seems rather natural, as Jesus makes clear in Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 6:31-36. Most people love those who love them, and most people do good for those who do good to them. Most people also hate their enemies. Jesus indicates that there is no substantive virtue in these things, because people do them naturally. In short, it does not take a lot of effort to be kind to those to whom we are favorably disposed.

God calls us to a higher path. Christians are to be kind and tenderhearted toward everyone, even to those to whom they are not favorably disposed. Personal, political, religious, and any other type of enemies or “opponents” should be treated as kindly and as lovingly as relatives and close friends. We must be willing to think the best of everyone and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

This is extremely challenging and counter-intuitive, and it is clearly part of God’s purposes in the Kingdom. When we no longer act like the world and nurse suspicions and hostilities, we demonstrate that we are no longer of the world (John 15:19). When we demonstrate that we are willing to be favorably disposed toward everyone, others will be more likely to be favorably disposed toward us!

The world thrives on conflict, opposition, hostilities, suspicions, fears, and judgmentalism. The forces active in this world love nothing more than to promote conflict, opposition, hostilities, suspicions, fears, and judgmentalism among those who would profess Jesus Christ, toward those within and without (cf. Ephesians 6:12). When that takes place, Christians lose their savor, and people see the hypocrisy and judgmentalism (Matthew 5:13-16). Since they can get that in the world, why not stay in the world?

The path of kindness, the tender heart, and forgiveness is very difficult. Nevertheless, it is not really an option, for Christians are called to be like their Lord (1 John 2:6). We should show mercy because God has showed us mercy (Luke 6:36). Where would we be if God were unfavorably disposed toward us? If God were suspicious of us, and never gave us the benefit of the doubt, where would we be? God has demonstrated immeasurable kindness and His tender heart by giving us of His Son so that we may have eternal life, and that kindness is shown to all men (John 3:16, Romans 5:5-11). If we want to be as God and Christ, we must show that same kindness to our fellow man. We must allow our heart to be open to them and attempt to get beyond whatever would divide and separate us from them. The love of God must compel us in these matters.

Let us no longer be of the world, but let us show the kindness and tender heart of God to all men!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Tender Heart

One in Christ

There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

Humans find endless ways of making distinctions between themselves and others. Different races, different ethnicities, different cultures, different religions, different languages, different geographical origins, all the way down to different political or sports preferences– all such differences can lead to real division. Humanity seems so fragmented.

Such fragmentation has served evil purposes for generations. When you can separate “them” from “us,” it is easier to discriminate against “them,” oppress “them,” or kill “them.” It is much harder to discriminate, oppress, or kill those whom you consider to be like yourself!

Strong forces always exist that serve to divide people from one another. Yet, in Jesus Christ, all such division is to be healed.

In Jesus Christ, Jew and Greek are one, no longer to be separated by generations of mutual hostility.

In Jesus Christ, barbarians, Scythians, and other such “uncouth” types are one with civilized, “cultured” types; such categories are not to matter any longer.

In Jesus Christ, master and slave are to gather around the same table and together share in the meal of the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

The power of the Gospel and the greatness of the Kingdom can be seen whenever people of different races, cultures, socioeconomic statuses, likes, and dislikes come together to become one in prayer, one in song, and one in remembering the Lord (cf. Ephesians 5:19, 1 Corinthians 14:17, 1 Corinthians 11).

As Christians, we cannot allow differences to get in the way of our service to Jesus Christ. The Kingdom is strongest when people of different backgrounds and different stations in life work together for the Lord’s purposes (1 Corinthians 12:12-28)!

This also means that no matter who you are, you also can be a servant of Jesus Christ, and part of His Kingdom. It does not matter what race you are, your cultural background, what language you speak, whether poor or rich, “cultured” or “uncultured,” “blue collar” or “white collar,” or anything of the sort. Your contribution to the Lord and His body are as important as everyone else’s!

The world may provide every reason to focus on what is different and what leads to division, yet Jesus Christ seeks to unify us all in Him. Let us be one with Christ and one another!

Ethan R. Longhenry

One in Christ

Spiritual Illness

But when he heard it, he said, “They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what this meaneth, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13).

One of the rather universal and unpleasant aspects of life is illness. We generally do not have time to get sick, and the pain and difficulties that go along with illness make life uncomfortable. Very severe illnesses can lead to loss of function and even death.

Even though illness causes difficulty, we all understand the need to recognize illness and find a way to treat it. The body sends plenty of signals that all is not well, and foolish is the one who does not heed them. It will not– and cannot– do to act as if the illness is not there and to attempt to go on with life. We could spend hours going through terribly tragic stories of people who have died because of various treatable illnesses. Many times these deaths take place because people did not seek after medical treatment for difficulties they were experiencing. When and if they sought treatment, it was too late.

We recognize that such is true about physical illness. And, as Jesus indicates, there is also a spiritual form of illness that is insidious and ultimately fatal!

Those who have sin have this spiritual illness. We generally do not have time for sin, and the pain and difficulty that goes along with sin are quite uncomfortable. Many sins do lead directly to physical death; all unrepentant sin leads to spiritual death (cf. 1 John 5:16-17).

All conscious human beings are afflicted with sin (Romans 3:23), and even if many seek to deny it, we do have this internal sense of discomfort with ourselves as we presently are (cf. Romans 8:23). We feel that something is missing– we are not whole! While many try to fill this void with earthly and fleshly things, only when we seek after God and His will can we find true wholeness and wellness (Ephesians 4:20-24).

Many people deny that they have the spiritual illness of sin, or would much rather continue within it than to seek after its remedy. Such “healthy” people are not really healthy, but their self-deception is so strong that God’s Word cannot take root (cf. Matthew 13:1-8). Ultimately their sin will lead to their destruction (Revelation 20:11-15)– we can only pray that they discover their illness before it is too late!

We honor and respect doctors and nurses and researchers who work tirelessly to develop treatments and provide greater quality of life to mankind. If a researcher discovered the cure for cancer, would we expect him or her to cover up the discovery and do nothing with it? If such a person were to do such a thing, how would we view them? How many lives ended because they did not proclaim their discovery?

Yet how many of us recognize the cure for the spiritual illness besetting so many around us and then do not proclaim it? How many souls are perishing who have not heard the message of redemption in Jesus? If we know the cure for spiritual illness and do not make it known, how will God view us (cf. Romans 10:14-17, Romans 1:16)?

The spiritual illness of sin is quite pervasive and destructive, and we would do well to look toward Jesus, the Great Physician of our souls, and do His will so that we may be whole. Let us also proclaim the cure for sin in Jesus Christ, and always remember that we, too, are God’s “patients” in constant need of “medicine” for our sin!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Spiritual Illness