The Civil Dozen — Part Two (a)

He was born Lawrence Joshua Chamberlain – on September 8, 1828 – in a cottage near the family homestead in Brewer, Maine. Brewer was a farming and shipbuilding community. Chamberlain’s parents named him after the heroic Commodore James Lawrence who had immortalized the words: “Don’t give up the ship!” The eldest of five children, young Lawrence was raised as a Puritan and Huguenot (French Protestant) in a household which prized good manners, cheerfulness, morality, education, and industry. During his adolescence, scholastic studies and farm work kept the shy, serious, and dutiful youth busy. This combination of scholastic studies and farm work taught him many lessons. One of the most important was earned while plowing the rough fields. His strict and taciturn father taught him that sheer willpower followed by positive action could accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. His father, a former lieutenant colonel in the military, wished for his son to enter the army. But his mother, a religious woman, wanted him to study for the ministry. After much consideration on the matter, Lawrence agreed to enter the ministry if he could become a missionary in a foreign land, a popular career choice of the time.

In 1848, Lawrence entered Bowdoin College at Brunswick, where he began using Joshua as his first name. During these initial years away from home, the introverted 19-year-old felt lonely and spoke little because he was embarrassed by his propensity for stammering. Joshua – remembering the lesson from his father about sheer willpower followed by positive action overcoming seemingly impossible tasks – learned to overcome his stammering by “singing out” phrases on a “wave of breath.” By his third year at Bowdoin, he had won awards in both composition and oratory.

As a student, Joshua earned a reputation for standing behind his principles. He refused to cut corners. He refused to cheat. He refused to even marry the girl he loved until he had a means for providing for her. This sense of honor never deserted him, even when under fire. When not pursuing his studies, Joshua enjoyed singing and playing musical instruments. Without any training, he learned to play both the bass viol and the organ by himself. In fact, he played the organ so well, he became the college chapel organist.

In 1852, after he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with his bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin, he completed a three-year master’s degree at Bangor Theological Seminary. Finally, in 1855, he married Francis (Fanny) Caroline Adams – the girl he had loved for over six years. Joshua was elected professor of rhetoric and oratory at Bowdoin in the Spring of 1856. By 1861, he was elected to the chair of modern languages. Joshua was well-qualified for this position, having mastered nine languages – Greek, Latin, French, German, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and Syriac – in preparation for a career in overseas ministry.

All of that changed with the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. Joshua felt a strong desire to serve his country. Despite the displeasure of the Bowdoin staff – Joshua’s strong sense of honor resulted in him becoming a Lieutenant Colonel of the 20th Regiment of Maine Volunteers in August, 1862.

The scholar-turned-soldier knew that there was much to learn. Joshua immediately took advantage of his position as second-in-command and studied every military work he could place his hands on. He stayed up late at night studying and memorizing these works. Joshua pressed his commander, West Point graduate Colonel Adelbert Ames, to teach him everything Ames knew about military strategy.  In a matter of months, the scholar-turned-soldier was as capable as all but the best of the military officers in the Union army.

 Part Two Lessons

 There are several leadership lessons that we can take from the early story of Joshua Chamberlain. These soft skills are both needed and relevant in the 21st century.

 1. Civil Leadership Trait #1 — Sheer willpower followed by positive action can accomplish seemingly impossible tasks.

We cannot make things happen through sheer desire and determination. Willpower must also be paired with positive action. Many people (including me) are intrigued by the NBC show, “The Biggest Loser.” We watch in amazement as a group of men and women shed 75, 100, or even 150 pounds. It is very obvious that willpower – the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term objectives – is a critical part of their success. Yet all the willpower in the world, will not enable one to shed that many pounds, without workouts (positive action) totaling nearly 8 hours a day.

Effective leadership needs to expect “short-termitis” (i.e., the tendency to sacrifice the future for the present). Effective leadership needs to model and insist upon strong willpower. Effective leadership needs to model and insist upon positive action (i.e., initiatives that increase revenues, decrease costs, increase efficiency, and/or decrease risks).

Chamberlain resisted the urge to stop plowing (something with a long-term benefit) in order to head to the waterhole (a real short-term temptation). That is because sheer willpower followed by positive action can accomplish seemingly impossible tasks.

2. Civil Leadership Trait #2 — Impediments are merely something to overcome.

An impediment is anything that slows or blocks progress. An impediment can be physical (e.g., a fallen tree in the road), intangible (e.g., piracy is an impediment to taking a pleasure cruise off the shores of Somalia), real (e.g., stuttering), or perceived (e.g., presumption of unimportance). An impediment can be personal or institutional. An impediment can be created by leaders or by employees.

Effective leaders address impediments. They do not run away from them. Effective leaders assess the situation, consider alternatives, and take action.

Chamberlain refused to accept the impediment of stuttering. He studied how to overcome it. He relentlessly practiced how to defeat it. He mastered the very skills that were constrained by the handicap. That is because impediments are merely something to overcome.

3. Civil Leadership Trait #3 — Developing a reputation for standing behind your principles will yield only respect and success.

John Maxwell states: “Character makes trust possible. And trust makes leadership possible.” Whenever you lead people, it’s as if they consent to take a journey with you. The way that trip is going to turn out is predicted by your character. Character communicates consistency. Character communicates potential. Character communicates respect. (The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership)

Chamberlain – throughout his life – stood for the principles that he embraced. Sometimes he found himself in agreement with others. Sometimes, he did not. In either case, his reputation for standing behind his principles defined his character. His reputation for standing behind his principles yielded only respect and success. It will have the same effect in your leadership as you exercise this civil leadership trait.

The Civil Dozen — Part One

“There they come.” The Colonel squinted. The line of men came slowly up the road. One hundred and twenty men from the old Second Maine which had been disbanded. Unfortunately, these men had signed three-year agreements while the rest of the regiment had signed two-year agreements. When the old Second Maine had been disbanded, the three-year men, who only wanted to fight with the two-year men, mutinied.

There were guards with fixed bayonets. The Colonel could see the utineers shuffling along, pathetic, dusty, with their heads down. It reminded the Colonel of a history-book picture of impressed seamen in the last war with England.

An aide said: “Colonel, there’s almost as many men there as we got in the whole regiment. How are we going to guard them?” The Colonel said nothing. He was thinking: “How do you force a man to fight – for freedom?” The idiocy of it jarred him. He realized that he had to think on that later. He had to do something now.

The Captain at the head of old Second Maine turned them in off the road and herded them into an open space in the field near the Regimental flag. The Captain had a loud voice and used obscene words to assemble the men in two long, ragged lines. He called them to attention but they ignored him. One mutineer slumped to the ground, more out of exhaustion then mutiny. A guard came forward. He yelled and probed with a bayonet but abruptly several more men sat down. Finally, all of the mutineers sat down.

The Captain began yelling but the guards stood grinning. The guards had gotten them here but unless the men posed some type of threat, there was nothing that could be done. The men were simply exhausted. The Colonel took it all in as he moved toward the Captain. The Captain pulled off his dirty gloves and shook his head with contempt, glowering at the Colonel.

“I am looking for the commanding officer.” “You’ve found him,” the Colonel said. The Captain stared at him insolently, showing what he thought of Maine men.

“Captain Brewer, sir. One-eighteenth Pennsylvania.” The Captain produced a sheaf of paper from his coat front. “If you are the commanding officer, sir, then I present you with these here (pause) prisoners.” The Colonel took the papers and handed them to his aide.

The Captain pulled on his dirty gloves. “You’re welcome to them. We had to use the bayonet to get’em moving. Your orders state you are authorized to use whatever force necessary, Colonel, to make them serve – including – the authority to shoot any man who refuses to do his duty.”

“You are relieved Captain.” The Colonel then looked at the guards. “You can leave now. We don’t need any guards.”

The Colonel stood for a moment looking down at the mutineers. Some of the faces turned up. There was hunger, exhaustion, and occasional hatred in their eyes. “My name is Chamberlain. I’m the Colonel of the Twentieth Maine.”

Two Dozen Basic Management Principles — Conclusion



Since his Olympic success in 2008, Lopez Lomong has partnered with World Vision to offer care, support, and a better future to families in South Sudan recovering from a legacy of warfare.

Through the 4 South Sudan project, The Lopez Lomong Foundation and World Vision are bringing hope to families who face the realities of poverty and the lingering impact of daily violence. By providing access to clean water, health care, education, and nutrition they are providing a brighter future for the South Sudanese.

You can go to to learn more and find information about how you can be involved with this great organization.

Management Lesson #24 – Give Back

It is easy to focus on yourself. The fact of the matter is that giving to others provides much greater satisfaction and yields much greater happiness. Choose to place others ahead of yourself by giving back to your country, your state, your community, or your church.

Lopez has also continued his professional running career. In the 2012 London Olympics, Lopez made the finals in the 5000 meters and finished fifth. He is now training for the 2016 Rio Olympics as we speak.

Biblical Theology 102

Biblical Theology 102




  1. The Scriptures

The Scriptures must be understood and read as one book, written by one author (God), with one main subject (God’s plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ).


  1. Biblical Theology

Biblical theology is, in effect, the study of the unity of the message of the Bible.Biblical theology:

  • shows the relationship of all parts of the Scriptures to the person and work of Jesus Christ. In effect, it shows the Scriptures to be Christo-centric.
  • shows the process by which God has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind. In effect, shows how that revelation is progressively revealed and progressively develops over the course of history.
  • shows the Scriptures to be more than a story. It’s a story that starts at the beginning of history and ends at the end of history. In effect, it is a metanarrative; a story that explains everything and so provides us with a worldview [1]



This morning we will be considering two topics:

  1. The biblical concepts of prophetic fulfillment and
  2. The proper method of drawing applications from the Old Testament.



Prophetic Fulfillment

God’s promises together point to and delineate a divine plan for history — a plan to redeem a people to worship Him forever. As such, prophetic fulfillment of God’s promises embrace three important concepts:


  1. Multiple Horizons of Fulfillment

God’s promises (prophecies in the broadest sense of the term) typically have multiple horizons of fulfillment. Additionally, each successive fulfillment occurs not only later in time chronologically, but is greater in significance both theologically and historically [1]. For example: Gen. 12:1-3 (Abrahamic Covenant); 2 Sam. 7:10 (Davidic Covenant)


  1. Already/Not Yet

God’s promises can have a present and future fulfillment. “Already, but not yet” describes the tension between the benefits of redemptive promises already experienced in this life and those benefits which await us at the consummation. Christians enjoy the “alreadyness” of the Atonement—remission of sins, adoption as children, the indwelling Holy Spirit, etc. However, there is a sense in which we will not see these realities in totality until the last day (1 John 3:2), and so they always remain objects of faith. For example, Christians await the final resurrection where they will receive new bodies, yet in a sense, believers are already “raised with Christ” (Col. 3:1). Or, as believers await the final judgment, in a sense they have already passed through it, for “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1) for believers that are justified by faith in Christ (cf. Rom. 3:21-36).


  1. Typology

God’s promises also find fulfillment in events and individual lives that prefigure what is yet to come. A “type” is an actual historical person or event that God has providentially ordered in order to use that person or event to point beyond himself or herself. The “type” points forward and finds its fulfillment in the “antitype.” [1]



Old Testament Application

Every time we interpret an Old Testament text, we basically have four options for drawing applications from the text:


  1. No Application

This text was for “them” (Old Testament saints) alone.


  1. Allegory

Start with a preconceived idea of application and then turn the details of an Old Testament story into symbols that represent our application. This method was dominant until late medieval times. Many misguided teacher – yet well-meaning and honest –applied the “meaning” of parts of the Bible to their own time and circumstances, far removed from what is truly found in God’s Word.


For example, Origen describes growth in the spiritual life based on the 42 stopping places of Israel in the wilderness (Numbers 33). Origen begins by asking why the Lord wanted Moses to write this passage down: “Was it so that this passage in Scripture about the stages the children of Israel made might benefit us in some way or that it should bring no benefit? Who would dare to say that what is written ‘by the Word of God’ is of no use and makes no contribution to salvation but is merely a narrative of what happened and was over and done a long time ago, but pertains in no way to us when it is told?”


The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century rejected, for the most part, the allegorical method and returned to the more literal interpretation of the Bible.



  1. Moralism

Move directly from Old Testament type to personal application. No attempt is made to understand the text in its original context or to relate it to Christ. The movement is direct from Old Testament text to contemporary application.



For example, Noah was asked to build a huge boat, far from the ocean. Moving directly from this Old Testament text to personal application might sound like: “We have to have faith that God will explain why we are asked to do impossible tasks. We just need to be faithful and do them.”


  1. Christo-Centric Typology

Start with the Old Testament and seeks to understand the significance of the type in its original context (and in terms that would have been significant to the original readers). Then move to the type’s fulfillment in Christ and His redemptive work as the antitype. Only then make the move to contemporary application.



A “Type” then is some “person,” or “event,” or “ceremony” that is recorded to “foreshadow” some future “person,” or “event,” or “ceremony.” Augustine said: “”The New is in the Old contained; The Old is by the New explained.” You cannot understand Leviticus without Hebrews, or Daniel without Revelation, or the Passover, without the Gospel account of the Crucifixion. The “Typology” of the Old Testament is the “PICTURE LANGUAGE” in which the Doctrines of the New Testament, such as the Atonement, are prefigured. For example, the “Brazen Serpent” (Num. 21:5-7) is a type of Jesus crucified on the “Cross” (John 3:14-15).



Discussion Questions

With that brief overview, let us evaluate moralism and Christo-centric typology and how these options differ when interpreting Old Testament texts?


  • What are the dangers of moralism?
  • What are the advantages of finding Christ in the Old Testament?
  • Can you provide any biblical examples of type/anti-type?
  • How would your interpretation differ using moralism vs. Christo-centric typology for the following Old Testament stories: 1) Abraham/Isaac (Gen. 22)? David/Goliath (1 Sam. 17)? Boaz/Ruth (Ruth 2-4)?



Answers to Discussion Questions


  • What are the dangers of moralism?

The basic error of moralism is this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior. Or stated differently, there are only two ways to read the Bible: it is basically about me or it is basically about Jesus. It is basically about what I must do, or basically it is about what He has done. Moralism chooses the first.


  • What are the advantages of finding Christ in the Old Testament?

Reading the Old Testament Christocentrically is not just an “additional” dimension. It is not something you can just tack on — to the end of a study and sermon. (“Oh, and by the way, this also points us to Christ”). Rather, the Christocentric reading provides a fundamentally different application and meaning to the text. Without relating it to Christ, the story of Abraham and Isaac means: “You must be willing to even kill your own son for him.” Rather, it shows that God asks nothing less of us that what He will ask of Himself. Without relating it to Christ, the story of Abigail disobeying her husband means: “We can disobey men when they are fools.” Rather, it shows a picture of true submission that is consistent with Christ’s example in Philippians 2:1-8 (argues moral truth, in the best interest of another, and against your best interest).


  • Can you provide any biblical examples of type/anti-type?

In studying the “Types,” the two comparative words “AS” and “SO” are helpful. The word “AS” is used for the “Type,” and the word “SO” for the Antitype. The first is historic; the second is prophetic. For example — “AS in Adam all die, even SO in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). “AS the days of Noah were, SO shall also the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:37). “AS Moses lifted up the serpent in the Wilderness, even SO must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14). “AS Jonah was three days and three nights in the Whale’s belly; SO shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40).


Let us also consider how Joseph is a type of Christ. Joseph was “beloved” of his father, so was Jesus. Joseph was sent unto his brethren, so was Jesus. Joseph’s brethren refused to receive him, so did the brethren of Jesus. Joseph was sold by his brethren, so was Jesus. Joseph was unjustly accused and condemned, so was Jesus. Joseph was buried in prison, so was Jesus in the Tomb of Joseph. Joseph was resurrected from prison and exalted to sit with Pharaoh on his throne, so Jesus was resurrected and exalted to sit on His Father’s Throne. Joseph on the throne became the dispenser of bread to starving Egypt, so Jesus on His Father’s Throne is the “Bread of Life” for a perishing world.



Other examples:

Typical persons — Adam/Christ; Melchizedek/Christ; Joseph/Christ; Jonah/Elder Brother. Typical events — Flood/Judgment; Passover/Atonement; Brazen Serpent/Cross. Typical numbers — Death by 1/Life by 1; 12 tribes/12 disciples; 40 years/40 days.


  • How would your interpretation differ using moralism vs. Christo-centric typology for the following Old Testament stories: 1) Abraham/Isaac (Gen. 22)? David/Goliath (1 Sam. 17)? Boaz/Ruth (Ruth 2-4)?
    • Abraham and Isaac.

Without relating it to Christ, the story of Abraham and Isaac means: “You must be willing to even kill your own son for him.” Rather, it shows that God asks nothing less of us that what He will ask of Himself.

  • David and Goliath. What is the meaning of that narrative for us? Without reference to Christ, the story may be (usually is!) preached as: “The bigger they come, the harder they’ll fall, if you just go into your battles with faith in the Lord. You may not be real big and powerful in yourself, but with God on your side, you can overcome giants.” But as soon as we ask — “How is David foreshadowing the work of His greater Son”? –We begin to see the same features of the story in a different light. The story is telling us that the Israelites cannot go up against Goliath. They can’t do it. They need a substitute. When David goes in on their behalf, he is not a full-grown man, but a vulnerable and weak figure, a mere boy. He goes virtually as a sacrificial lamb. But God uses his apparent weakness as the means to destroy the giant, and David becomes Israel’s champion-redeemer, so that his victory will be imputed to them. They get all the fruit of having fought the battle themselves.
  • Boaz and Ruth.

Without relating it to Christ, the story of Boaz and Ruth means: “Be like Boaz. Be sensitive to the outsider and show grace to widow.” Rather, Boaz is a picture of a kinsman-redeemer. The kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who, according to various laws of the Pentateuch, had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need. The Hebrew term (go el) for kinsman-redeemer designates one who delivers or rescues (Genesis 48:16; Exodus 6:6) or redeems property or person (Leviticus 27:9–25, 25:47–55). Christ is an example of a kinsman-redeemer because, as our brother (Hebrews 2:11), He also redeems us because of our great need, one that only He can satisfy. In Ruth 3:9, we see a beautiful and poignant picture of the needy supplicant, unable to rescue herself, requesting of the kinsman-redeemer that he cover her with his protection, redeem her, and make her his wife. In the same way, the Lord Jesus Christ bought us for Himself, out of the curse, out of our destitution; made us His own beloved bride; and blessed us for all generations. He is the true kinsman-redeemer of all who call on Him in faith.




  1. Prophetic Fulfillment

God’s promises together point to and delineate a divine plan for history — a plan to redeem a people to worship Him forever. As such, prophetic fulfillment of God’s promises embrace three important concepts:

  • Multiple Horizons of Fulfillment
  • Already/Not Yet
  • Typology


  1. Proper Method to Apply Old Testament Texts

Start with the Old Testament and seek to understand the significance of the type in its original context (and in terms that would have been significant to the original readers). Then move to the type’s fulfillment in Christ and His redemptive work as the antitype. Only then make the move to contemporary application.




[1] Michael Lawrence, “Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church





For a transcript of this lesson go to: and click on the Community Group link.




Two Dozen Basic Management Principles — Pt. 20

Chapter 18



The biggest moment of Lopez life did not take place in Beijing. His greatest moment came true nearly three years after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. To fully appreciate why December 16, 2011 was the greatest moment of his life, you must go back with him to Kimotong (Sudan) and Kakuma.

His village in Sudan was and is very poor by American standards. No one owns a car. No one has electricity. And there is no school in Kimotong. Very few people can read and write because there is no place to learn and no one there to teach them.

When Lopez was a boy, his father occasionally talked about sending him to Kenya for school – but that required money. Even if they had, Lopez would have only gotten a basic high school education.

Lopez arrived in Kakuma poor and hungry. It was there, that by God’s grace, he started school. There were no books, lessons were sung, and sticks and dirt served as pencil and paper. Encouragement came in the form of swats with a stick. Even after ten years of school, he wrote and did math at a first or second grade level. Never once did Lopez ever think that one day he would move on from the camp and go to college.

Thus, the greatest moment of his life came when he walked into the Sky Dome on the campus of Northern Arizona University carrying the banner of the W.A. Franke School of Business.

Jeremiah 29:11 says: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” These words sound like God wrote them specifically for Lopez. He lived through disaster. He lived through hardship and death. Yet God never left him. He changed Lopez from the lost boy into Joseph. And just like Joseph in the Bible, He took what was once intended for evil and transformed it into good. Receiving his college degree along with the future that degree represented the ultimate expression of God turning disaster into a future and a hope for Lopez.


Management Lesson # 23 – In God’s Hands

Lopez’ path to obtaining a degree was neither easy nor direct. Yet, it was ordained from a sovereign God who is wiser than us. May we understand that all things happen in order for us to grow in dependence upon Him and in order for us to grow in Christlikenes.

Biblical Theology 101

Biblical Theology 101

Early in the 21st century, a British police officer went to visit a primary school, where he was asked to tell a story. He began by asking: “Who knocked down the walls of Jericho?”

There was a long silence as the children shuffled nervously on their seats. Eventually, a little lad put up his hand and said: “Please sir, my name is Bruce Jones. I don’t know who did it but it wasn’t me.”

The police officer thought that reply to be cheeky, so he reported the incident to the head master. After a pause, the head master replied: “I know Bruce Jones. He is an honest boy. If he said he didn’t do it, he didn’t.”

The police officer was exasperated. The head master was either rude or very ignorant. The police officer wrote to the School Board to complain and received this response. “Dear Sir. We are sorry to hear about the walls of Jericho and that nobody has admitted causing the damage. If you send us an estimate, we will see what we can do about the cost.”

It is a silly story but it does make a point. A few decades ago everyone would have known about Joshua and the walls of Jericho. Today, the average non-Christian is almost completely ignorant of the contents of the Bible. Unfortunately, the knowledge of Christians is often not much better! We may know of many of the major stories and even key doctrines, but we do not understand how to use the Scriptures.

This morning we will consider the Scriptures from 50,000 feet while explaining what Biblical Theology is and its usefulness.


The Scriptures
The Bible is a diverse collection of different writings. It contains sixty-six books, written by about forty human authors, over nearly 2,000 years. It has two main sections (the Old Testament and the New Testament), is written in two main languages (Hebrew and Greek), includes a mixture of literature types.

The Scriptures do not tell the story of how God decided to send Jesus to earth only after his first plan had failed (e.g., Adam, Israel). The Scriptures are not a book of quotations. Neither are the Scriptures a collection of books.

The Scriptures must be understood and read as one book, written by one author (God), with one main subject (God’s plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ).
Biblical Theology
Biblical theology is, in effect, the study of the unity of the message of the Bible. Biblical theology:

• shows the relationship of all parts of the Scriptures to the person and work of Jesus Christ. In effect, it shows the Scriptures to be Christo-centric.
• shows the process by which God has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind. In effect, shows how that revelation is progressively revealed and progressively develops over the course of history.
• shows the Scriptures to be more than a story. It’s a story that starts at the beginning of history and ends at the end of history. In effect, it is a metanarrative; a story that explains everything and so provides us with a worldview [1]

Biblical theology differs from Systematic Theology. Biblical theology is the attempt to tell the whole story of the whole Bible as Christian Scripture. Systematic theology is the attempt to summarize in an orderly and comprehensive manner what the whole bible has to say about any given topic. It then organizes those topics into precise and accurate doctrines that define the boundary between truth and error, between orthodoxy (right belief) and heresy. [1]
Unifying Themes
If we are understand a text of Scripture, we need to understand the words, sentences, and paragraphs through the grammatical-historical method. But we also ask the question, what covenant, dispensation, or epoch (the three major evangelical theories) governs God’s people and His progressive revelation at this point.

1. Covenants
Covenantal theologians view God’s progressive revelation in terms of covenants (covenants of works and covenants of grace). They divide the Scriptures into seven covenants — Creation, Redemption, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New.

2. Dispensations
Dispensationalists view God’s progressive revelation in terms of dispensations. They divide the Scriptures into seven dispensations — innocence (prior to Adam’s fall; Gen 1:1–3:7), conscience (from Adam to Noah; Gen 3:8–8:22), government (from Noah to Abraham; Gen 9:1–11:32), patriarchal rule (from Abraham to Moses; Gen 12:1–Exod 19:25), Mosaic Law (from Moses to Christ; Exod 20:1–Acts 2:4), grace (the current church age; Acts 2:4–Rev 20:3), and the Millennial Kingdom that has yet to come (Rev 20:4–20:6).

3. Epochs
Epochists (if such a term exists) view God’s progressive revelation in terms of epochs. they divide the Scriptures into epochs — creation, fall, promise, Israel, etc.
Discussion Questions
In an attempt to show how the Scriptures are Christo-centric, progressive in their revelation, and involve a metanarrative, how would you answer the following questions:

• There are how many “peoples of God”?
• Jonah is a picture of who in the Old Testament? The New Testament?
• Why was it important for Christ to go to Egypt?

• How were people in the Old Testament saved?
• How does Abigail point us to Christ?
• Abraham was a ________ (nationality)?

• If the Scriptures address a single subject, what is that subject?
• Who is the “second” Adam? Where is this discussed?
• Why were there 12 disciples?
Answers to Discussion Questions
The answers to these discussion questions will differ (somewhat) on which unifying theme you use to approach the Scriptures. Assuming that you approach the Scriptures from a Covenantal or Epochal approach, the answers are as follows:

• There are how many “peoples of God”?
One. From eternity past (Eph. 1:4) God chose a people to worship and honor Him. From inception, there was one people, one tree (Romans 11:11-24).

• Jonah is a picture of who in the Old Testament? The New Testament?
Jonah typified the stubborn rebellion of God’s people, Israel. Just as Jonah disobeyed God’s order, Israel disobeyed God’s law. Just as Jonah refused to carry out his task of preaching to the Gentiles, so did the nation Israel. Just as Jonah called on God for deliverance, yet without genuine repentance, so did Israel. Just as Jonah had the outward trappings of righteousness, the right forms and the right terms, but lacked genuine righteousness, so did Israel. Just as Jonah chaffed at the thought of the repentance and forgiveness of the Assyrians, so the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees bristled at the repentance of the “prodigal son,” as reflected by the older brother (Luke 15:11-32). And just as Jonah smugly saw himself as righteous, while the pagan was a sinner (Jonah 2:8-9), so the elder brother looked down his spiritual nose at his younger brother. Jonah portrays Israel in the Old Testament and the Elder Brother in the New Testament.

• Why was it important for Christ to go to Egypt?
Jesus is the true Israel — Using a quotation from Hosea, Matthew deliberately identifies Jesus with Israel: “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Matthew 2:15). But this Jesus is different. He too is tempted, as the Israelites were in the wilderness, but He does not fall (Matthew 4:1-11).

• How were people in the Old Testament saved?
In that there was a single plan of salvation, all (Old Testament or New Testament) are saved by grace through faith (Habbakuk 2:4; Eph. 2:8-9; Hebrews 11:8-12).

• How does Abigail point us to Christ?
True submission is best seen in Philippians 2:1-8. True biblical submission is the active pursuit of moral truth and the best interests of another, by the subordination of our own personal interests. This is clearly seen here in Philippians 2. Here Christ actively pursues God’s need for justice (sin must be punished) and the best interests of the elect (the best interests of another), by the subordination of His own personal interest (“who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant….”). This is true biblical submission. Likewise Abigail (1 Sam. 25:23-31) actively pursues moral truth (she indirectly reminds him that the Old Testament Law of Moses sets down the principle of justice: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth — see Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21), actively pursues the best interests of another (she pleads with him not to take her husband Nabal seriously for he is a fool and she protects David future reputation as a King), and she subordinates her own personal interests (she places her life in danger and would have been better served to allow David to kill the fool Nabal).

• Abraham was a ________ (nationality)?
Abraham was a Chaldean (Genesis 11:28). Thus, all promises made to Abraham do not need to be filled by the Jews since Abraham is the father of both Gentiles (Ishmael) and Jews (Isaac). And these promises were made prior to the creation of the nation of Israel.

• If the Scriptures address a single subject, what is that subject?
God’s glory in salvation through judgment. [1] Or, God’s plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. [2]

• Who is the “second” Adam? Where is this discussed?
Jesus is the true Adam — He is descended from Adam (Luke 3:23-38). He identifies with Adam’s race in His baptism (Luke 3:21-22). But unlike the first Adam, when He is tempted He does not sin (Rom. 5:18-19).

• Why were there 12 disciples?
The disciples are a new Israel — Jesus calls His first disciples. His choice of twelve is no coincidence; it is a deliberate statement. He is calling together a new Israel, with twelve disciples as the foundation, rather than twelve tribes (Matthew 4:18-22). The kingdom of God is to be taken away from the Jews and given to a people who will produce its fruit (Matthew 21:43). The new Israel is made up of Abraham’s offspring — not only those who are of the law (i.e., Jews) but also those who are of the faith of Abraham (who was not a Jew — Rom. 4:16).
Kingdom of God
As one example of an Epoch-centric structure, an overview of Biblical Theology can follow Vaughan Roberts’ model. He believes that there is a unifying theme that binds the whole Bible together — the Kingdom of God.

What is the kingdom of God? He defines the kingdom of God as: “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing.”

His Epoch-centric approach divides the Bible into eight sections which are the main epochs in God’s unfolding plan to restore His kingdom — The Pattern of the Kingdom (Genesis 1-2), The Perished Kingdom (Genesis 3), The Promised Kingdom (Genesis 12 – Exodus 18), The Partial Kingdom (Exodus 19 – 2 Chronicles), The Prophesied Kingdom (Ezra – Malachi), The Present Kingdom (Gospels), The Proclaimed Kingdom (Acts – Revelation 19), and The Perfected Kingdom (Revelation 20+).
Biblical theology is, in effect, the study of the unity of the message of the Bible. Biblical theology teaches us that the Scriptures must be understood and read as one book, written by one author (God), with one main subject (God’s plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ). Biblical Theology shows us that the Scriptures are:
• Christo-centric,
• progressive in its revelation, and
• a story that explains everything and so provides us with a worldview.


[1] Michael Lawrence, “Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church”
[2] Vaughan Roberts, “The Big Picture”
[3] Robert Deffinbaugh, “Dear Abby”

For a transcript of this lesson go to: and click on the Community Group link.

Biblical Theology Diagrams

Faith and Academia


Faith & Academia


1. Habakkuk

Many speakers had lamented the wickedness of America. Some had warned of the need for repentance. Others had stressed the need for a spiritual revival. “Repent 2015” had been a rousing success. Nearly 500 religious leaders had agreed that the time for spiritual change in America was overdue.


Rolly went home with a heavy heart. The conference had highlighted the plight of America. And as he bowed to pray that evening before going to bed, the fervency from the event poured out. Channeling his inner “Joe Wright,” he prayed:


“Father, I come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your guidance for this country. We know Your Word says: “Woe to those who call evil good” but that is exactly what this nation has done. We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it Pluralism. We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Lord, when will you move to correct this situation? When will you bring this nation to repentance? When will you bring revival?” [6]


At that moment, his prayer was interrupted. The audible voice of God spoke. “Rolly, do not worry. I have a plan to answer your prayer. I plan to raise up ISIS to begin a large scale purging of the United States. It will start with the bombing of movie theatres, the pillaging of schools, and the closing of all churches. They will then use many of the same methods that they have used in Syria and Iraq including public executions, beheadings, marrying off young girls to soldiers, and the forcible removal of children….”


God continued to lay out His plan. Rolly could not believe what he had heard. Carefully, and with as much respect as possible, he spoke back. “But Lord, why would a holy God use such a wicked people? They are even more wicked and godless than those who you are chastising.”


While this story is fictional, it is based on a real story. In 608 BC, we read about a godly but confused prophet named Habakkuk complaining before God: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (1:2). In looking around at God’s people he sees rampant apostasy, disobedience, and oppression. All of which God seems to be tolerating.


While God is not obligated to respond, He does. He lets Habakkuk know that He has every intention of disciplining His people, but not in a way Habakkuk could have anticipated. As the instrument to punish and to purify His people, God plans to send an invasion force from the Babylonians – a proud, ruthless, godless nation.


Habakkuk is shocked. How can a holy God use such unholy means to discipline His people? God’s plan appears inconsistent with both His character and His promises. He even accuses God of neglecting to maintain His standards of holiness and righteousness. “Why do you idly look at traitors and are silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? (1:13).


Once again God responds. God’s answer is centered on this statement: “The righteous shall live by his faith” (2:4). He also states that the way of the proud ultimately will not prosper, be they Israelite or Babylonian (2:14). Finally, God’s answer to the prophet reaches a climax with these awesome words: “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him” (2:20). [3]


Habakkuk is transformed. If I were to paraphrase his thoughts at the close of the book in more contemporary terms — since most of us do not measure our well-being in terms of figs, fruit, and flocks  – we might say: [1] Though the Social Security fund is depleted, Though the stock market crashes, Though my insurance company goes bankrupt and my IRA account vaporizes; Though I lose my job or my business fails, I will rejoice because of the Lord.


2. Daniel

Why would I introduce our text with these two stories? It is because our text for tonight takes place less than three years later. After resisting His entreaties spoken through the prophets, God fulfills His promise by delivering His own rebellious and idol-loving people into exile and slavery. The judgment occurs in three stages – in 605 BC, in 597 BC, and finally in 587 BC when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the entire city of Jerusalem, burned the temple, and essentially displaced the entire remaining population to captivity in Babylon.


Daniel 1 occurs immediately after Babylon’s victory over Egypt, in the battle of Charchemish in 605 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar proceeded back toward Babylon. Judah had thrown its lot in with Egypt in the great war and was now on the losing side. On the return trip, Nebuchadnezzar stopped on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He threatened Jerusalem with a siege, and King Jehoiakim capitulated:


Verse 2:

“And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God.”


These Nebuchadnezzar carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god – effectively declaring: “Your God is worthless and contemptible. He cannot protect His people. It is the gods of Babylon that rule the world.”


Verse 3:

“Then the king [Nebuchadnezzar] ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility-young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace…” effectively declaring: “Your future is mine, too. I will take some of the finest of your young men because their generation and every generation afterward will serve me. I own the people of this land, I despise the God of this land, and you have no recourse.”


Verse 4:

“He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.”


For purposes of our conversation this evening, look at what these youths were being offered. The highest court official personally chose them. They were assigned special rations of food from the king’s table. They were to be given an elite education in the best university in the world. They were offered a chance to serve in the presence of the greatest emperor who had ever ruled to that time. They would be his familiars, serve in his court, speak to him daily, and minister to his needs.


What an opportunity! Behind them was the failed religion of their own people. Here was an opportunity, if they were strong enough to take it, to advance to a high place and grand success, serving the greatest power in the world.[7]


Verse 8:

“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.” Daniel then said to the guard, whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.”


Daniel not only resolved to be holy (vs.8), he was selective in what he chose to protest. When he was isolated, he didn’t protest. When he was being trained in the language and literature of the Babylonians, he didn’t protest. When he was asked to participate in a gentile, heathen government, he didn’t protest. And when they were given new names he didn’t protest. But when Daniel was put on a new diet he would not assimilate. [6]


This reflects his belief that what we eat and drink, like what we wear and how we speak, generally constitutes an outward expression of our self-identity and commitments. Daniel’s abstinence symbolized his avoiding assimilation. In other words, eating the palace provisions, at least in Daniel’s way of thinking, entailed a compromise of faith that getting a new name, learning Babylonian culture, and serving in a Babylonian court did not. [4]


Verse 17:

“To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.”


3. Daniel – Lessons

I chose Daniel 1 because a study of this chapter is worth our time. The godly personal life of Daniel is a model for us in higher public education. Daniel was not a prophet. He was a statesman. He was not a patsy. He was a steward who impacted the lives of the greatest political leaders of his time. He was not a follower. He was a model leader.


The central question of the book of Daniel is:  “How can a Christian sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”  And that is so directly applicable to where we are today.


Because this land which was once ours, the society that used to be permeated with Christian thinking, which used to be permeated with the moral principles which we have adhered to for thousands of years now appears to us as a strange land.  We seem to be confronted with a culture that is sometimes baffling even to understand.  What is going on?  We have the opportunity by grace and faith to respond to the strangeness of this land. We are called upon to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land. There are many important lessons for us to learn in this passage. I’d like to consider six things tonight which the Lord would instruct us. [2]

a. We must grasp and embrace that God is sovereign even in His people’s tragedy. [2]

First, we must grasp and embrace that God is sovereign even in His people’s tragedy.


Look at verses 1 and 2: “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.  The Lord gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah, into his hand.”


The first verse tells you about the children of Israel being taken into captivity.  The second verse tells you why.  The first verse may look like the God of Israel has fallen prey to the false gods of Babylon.


The second verse makes it clear that even the downfall of Jerusalem and the exile is positive proof of the sovereignty of the God of Israel.  Why?  Because all the way back in Deuteronomy chapter 28, God had promised Israel that if she went astray He would send her into exile.  And now, almost a thousand years later, a patient and long suffering God is fulfilling His promise.


You see, the exile is not a proof that God’s plan has failed; it’s a proof that God’s plan has been fulfilled. Daniel knows that there is nothing accidental in human life. It is this belief that God is in control that enables Daniel to do so well in his service to Nebuchadnezzar. [2]


Life in the academic world is not always a bed of roses. Changes in academic leadership, pressure to remain on a tenure track, System initiatives, and changing grant requirements are often out of our control. The fact that we don’t get a promotion, that we don’t get tenure, or that we don’t get awarded a grant – is not proof that God is not in control. He is always in control. We need to recognize that there are no accidents in His plan. We need to have confidence that God will use our time, talents, and treasures according to His purposes. We must grasp and embrace that God is sovereign even in our tragedy.


 b. We must be aware of the stratagems of assimilation. [2]

Second, we must be aware of the stratagems of assimilation. In verses 3 through 7, we are told how Daniel and his friends came to be in the Babylonian court. But we are also told of a truth underlying it. We are basically told how Nebuchadnezzar and his men planned to assimilate the nobility of Jerusalem into a false worldview.


First of all, they isolated them from Jerusalem.  The goal was to isolate them from their families, from weekly worship, from the sacrificial system, from the reading and the hearing of the word, and from the prophetic testimony of the preachers of God in Israel.


Next, they indoctrinated them.  They were taught the language and the literature of Babylon.  The goal was to indoctrinate them into the thinking, into the worldview of Babylonians.


Third, they gave them new names.  The goal was that they would be called by Babylonian names, connected with the god of the Babylonians, so that they would forget who they were.


Finally, they encouraged them to compromise. The goal was to put before them rich food, great privileges, comfort, status, reputation, and importance in order to wean their desires from their God and to draw their desires to Babylon. [2] “Nebuchadnezzar wanted them to dress as they dress in Babylon, speak as they speak in Babylon, behave as they behave in Babylon, and even eat what they eat in Babylon.” [6]

This reminds us of the assimilation stratagems of the academic world. Academia strives to isolate Christian faculty from the Word by claiming a need for separation of church and state. Academia strives to indoctrinate us into a worldview that ignores the Bible as a source of truth. Academia strives to call Christians freaks, right-wing nuts, extremists, and ignorant fools so that we will adopt new names that have no relationship to our faith. That is, it desires to assimilate us by telling us not to identify as a Christian. Finally, Academia strives to make us compromise our biblical worldview by rewarding those who play by the rules with tenure, influential positions, and important grants. We must be aware of the stratagems of assimilation.

c. We must consciously resolve to resist assimilation and identify with God.

Third, we must consciously resolve to resist assimilation and identify with God. In verses 8 through 16, we see Daniel’s strategy for resistance.


The key verse is this: “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank” … (Daniel 1:8a).


Holiness does not happen by chance. Sanctification is God’s work brought about in and through men and women who, in dependence on His Spirit, diligently strive to be faithful disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Some people equate spirituality and spontaneity. Not so Daniel. Daniel not only purposed to be pure, he planned ahead. He sought a means to avoid the king’s food before he would be defiled by it. He persevered in seeking God’s way of escape when his first effort seemed to fail. Daniel was not passive in living a godly life. He was actively seeking to please God by avoiding defilement. Holiness requires a commitment to be pure, a plan to accomplish this purpose, and persistence in carrying out the plan. [1]


This issue is important for us as Christian faculty and administrators. As Daniel resolved not to defile himself, we will each face choices in which the question of assimilation is absolutely central. Who lays claims to us? At whose table are we nourished? Who is the one with whom we share life itself? The question will present itself in different ways for different people, and we each have to answer it. Perhaps you work in a department where the expectation is that you will lie or cheat. Perhaps the expectation is that you will worship influence/prestige as if it were God. Perhaps it is that you will damage your family, whether because of the party environment in which the work takes place or because of the hours you are required to work. Will you say, “No, I can’t eat at the king’s table, I am nourished from a different place”? You are either going to eat at the king’s table or you aren’t. You are either going to give in or you are going to be owned by the Lord God. You are going to accept an allegiance that’s harmful or you are going to refuse. Resolve not to be assimilated and to be identified with God. [7]


d. We must strive to be submissive. [1]

Fourth, we must strive to be submissive.  Having determined that eating the king’s food and drinking his wine would be defiling to him, Daniel set out to abstain from them, but in a submissive way.


The goal of Daniel’s Babylonian superiors was to obtain the optimum physical and mental performance of those in training. No one really cared what Daniel ate as long as he prospered, physically and mentally. Knowing this, Daniel sought out Ashpenaz, the commander of the king’s officials, asking permission to abstain from the king’s food.


The text tells us that God intervened causing Ashpenaz to look upon Daniel with favor and compassion (verse 9) but it did not result in Daniel’s request being granted. Next, Daniel sought out his immediate superior, not in an effort to circumvent Ashpenaz, but because the immediate superior was in a position to execute and evaluate Daniel’s proposed plan of action.


Daniel proposed that he and his friends be allowed to eat vegetables for ten days and then their condition compared with the rest. If Daniel’s group could match or surpass the others, then the goal of the Babylonian officials was obtained, yet in a way that did not require Daniel’s assimilation. Daniel’s proposal is submissive because it seeks the permission of the one directly in charge; it seeks to fulfill the purposes of Daniel’s superiors. The proposal was accepted. God divinely intervenes. The test succeeds.


Biblical submission is not a begrudging compliance with the letter of the law set down by those over us. Submission begins first with an attitude which desires to obey God-given authority as an act of obedience to God. Second, it seeks to view matters from the standpoint of one’s superior. Third, it seeks to understand and, if possible, to accomplish the goals of the one in authority. When the means or methods of those in authority conflict with biblical directives, biblical submission seeks to accomplish the goal of the one in authority, but by means which are not contrary to scripture. We must strive to be submissive.


This lesson is particularly relevant in the academic arena. The goal in academia is meaningful, impactful research and education. This is what universities exist for. This is what the System stresses. This is what the Provost and President stress. More specifically, the measure of meaningful, impactful research and education are citation counts, grant dollars, and awards.


How do we stress this goal while rejecting the false gods of prestige and fame? How do we accomplish the goals of the one in authority without violating biblical directives? How do we submit without being contrary to Scripture? I will have to leave that question hanging because it warrants a much longer discussion.


e. We must strive for excellence. [1]

Fifth, we must strive for excellence. Daniel 1 puts forward ideals for which every true Christian should strive: physical and mental excellence, employed to please God and men.


We see the same with our Lord and Savior in Luke: “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom  and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).


The Babylonians did notice Daniel and his friends, not because of their faithfulness to God, but because of their submissive spirit, strong bodies, and scholarly minds. They were interested in the bottom line—performance. Nebuchadnezzar first took note of Daniel and his friends because they best met the qualifications he sought. He chose them in spite of their religious scruples more than because of them.


It is little wonder that many Christians have a poor testimony in academia today. Many Christians think of their work as secular and unspiritual. They do not excel or even try to do their jobs well. Spiritual ministry is what is important to them. They do the bare minimum at work so they can get on to more important things – ministry. Others live two lives – one in academia and one in their spiritual ministry. They do well in both but never dare merge faith and academia.


Others choose to try and excel in one of the most competitive environments on the planet – Texas A&M! Whether it is athletics, academics, or rankings – competition is in the very DNA of this institution.


We compete not only with other institutions – but with our co-workers and friends. Are you prepared to embrace that fact or reject it?


A Christian witness begins in the workplace, on the job, by Christians doing a job well, as unto the Lord. If we excel at what we do, men will take note. They may then be more interested to hear what we have to tell them about God (“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.” Proverbs 22:29). A Christian witness ends in the workplace when we view it as it is – our field of full-time ministry. For here we are called to be disciple-makers (as we go – Matthew 28:20), ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20), and stewards (Matthew 25:14-20). We must strive for excellence.


f. We must expect to be influential. [7]

Sixth, we must expect to be influential. Often when we say, “I will stand for the Lord,” we assume that we will be marginalized, shunted off to some backwater role and forgotten, and the world will go on glorifying the people it always glorifies. But the interesting thing about this book is that exactly the opposite was true for Daniel.


His commitment to be a servant of God made him an effective witness in his world. Nebuchadnezzar, the great “head of gold,” fell on his face before Daniel. Later Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind for a number of years, and it was Daniel who helped him make sense of things, and who essentially led this proud man to humble faith. Daniel prophesied the death of Belshazzar and the fall of the city of Babylon. Daniel was similarly elevated when the Persians came to power. It may well have been Daniel, in service to Cyrus, who wrote the decree to send the Jews back to the Promised Land. It may well have been Daniel who wrote the prophecies that led the wise men to seek the infant Christ-child. God established Daniel and made him influential.


Choosing to honor God in academia may very well make you more influential than those who obtain all the awards and attention. Choosing to honor God in academia may result in other coming to Christ who may do even greater things for the Kingdom than you. Choosing to honor God in academia may result in you being more influential than if you go along with the academic crowd. We should expect that God is going to honor the choices He calls on his people to make.


How can a Christian sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? We must grasp and embrace that God is sovereign even in His people’s tragedy. We must be aware of the stratagems of assimilation. We must consciously resolve to resist assimilation and identify with God. We must strive to be submissive. We must strive for excellence. And we must expect to be influential.



[1] Robert Deffinbaugh, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” (Daniel 1:3-21)

[2] J. Ligon Duncan, “Resolution for Holiness” (Daniel 1)

[3] C.J. Mahaney, “Humility”

[4] Sam Storms, “Daniel 1”

[5] Geoff Thomas, “Daniel Draws a Line” (Daniel 1)

[6] Joe Wright, “Prayer in Kansas House of Representatives”

[7] Steve Zeisler, “Fortified for Faithfulness” (Daniel 1)

Two Dozen Basic Management Principles — Pt. 19

Lopez thought he was nervous when he spoke to the Dream Team. He was really nervous when it came time to put on the strap for the flag and walk out into Beijing’s Olympic Stadium. The flag was huge, and the wind whipped down the tunnel where he waited for the signal to start walking. “Don’t let that flag touch the ground, buddy,” the President had told him. Lopez thought it would not be hard. With the wind blowing, he was not quite so sure now.

Lopez took a deep breath and said a quick prayer. The official in charge of the order of the teams looked up at Lopez, “Okay, it’s time, he said. A Chinese girl with a sign that read “United States of America” took her place in front of Lopez. They took off walking.

He stepped out of the tunnel and a million camera flashes went off at once. The crowd cheered. Lopez walked down the track, his grip tight on the flagpole. He looked up at the giant Jumbotron. There on the screen, he saw President Bush, standing, saluting the flag. They then split the image in half. On one side was the President, his hand over his heart. On the other side was Lopez Lomong, the lost boy carrying the flag of his new home. He was no longer a lost boy or an orphan. He was an American.

A full week passed between the opening ceremonies and his first 1500 meter heat. He needed that time to come down out of the clouds. His adopted parents, Coach Paccia, and Tom Carraci (his best friend from high school) all came to watch him run.

He finished fifth in his first race but his time qualified him for the semifinals. Unfortunately, that race didn’t go quite so well. His normal strategy worked until late in the third lap when the field starting kicking at 500 meters to go! Lopez normally starting kicking at 300 meters. Lopez could not believe his eyes. He tried to keep up but his right leg would not respond. He came away with his worst time of the year, a full five seconds slower than his time in the quarter-finals.

His Olympic dream of winning a gold medal had come to an end. But his dream, first voiced in a refugee camp in Kenya, of competing in the Olympics for the United States of America had come true.


Management Lesson #22 – Don’t Quit

No matter how difficult your challenge. Never, never, never quit. Failure is not an option!


James 1:19-27

The Response to the Word

James 1:19-27


1. The Word

Late in the 19th century, two men living in London went to a meeting of their geographical society to hear about a recent trip to China. During the report, the speaker spoke of being in a village and inquiring if any Christians lived there. The village chief told him there was one Christian living in a village about fifteen miles away. One of the two men leaned over to his friend and said: “Ah, there was only one Christian and he was fifteen miles away. But they knew exactly where he lived!”

Does the world know about our faith? Does our faith make us radically different from those around us? Do our deeds match with the Word that we profess to read, study, and believe.

Month after month, week after week we preach the word of God here at Declaration Church. That is because everything we need is found in the word of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul writes: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

This comprehensive view of the importance of the Word is echoed in the Westminster Confession: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture…”

The Word is the heart and soul of our Christian experience. In short, that’s why we preach the word of God — week after week, month after month — at Declaration Church. But we don’t preach it for preaching’s sake! We preach the Word so that we will live in a manner that is consistent with the teaching of the Word.

2. The Book of James

The passage that we will be looking at tonight is found in the book of James.

  •  The Author

Though there is some debate on the matter, conservative scholarship is almost unanimous in agreement that the author of James is the half-brother of Jesus known as James the Just (not James, the son of Zebedee, the brother of John who was martyred very early – see Acts 12:2).

  •  The Date

This letter was most likely written before A.D. 50 and the Jerusalem Council, since neither the Council nor its decision is mentioned in this epistle. If so, this book is the earliest book of the entire New Testament. [1]


  • The Audience

James addresses this work primarily to Jewish Christians who have been dispersed from Jerusalem due to early persecution by the Romans (Acts 8:1).

  •  The Purpose

Given that Jewish Christians were struggling with how to relate their faith in Jesus to their Jewish heritage, struggling with matters related to the poor and rich (due to battles between Zealots and Pro-Roman parties), and struggling with discriminatory persecution (the persecutions referred to in the book were probably the result of the impositions of the rich upon the poor and the injustices of employers toward their employees since official government persecution did not begin until the late 50’s), James provides his readers with a series of tests by which they could measure the genuineness of their faith.

3. The Text

Tonight, we will look at the third test – the test of the response to the Word (James 1:19-27). Let us read James 1:19-27.

This you know, my beloved brethren. Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted which is able to save your souls. But prove your selves doers of the word and not merely hearers that delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural in a mirror, for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer, but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Let’s pray. Our Lord, may we be both hearers and doers of the word. And so grant that we would hear with the desire to be changed. Grant us attention and search our hearts out by Your own Spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen. [2]

4. Sermon Outline

The context of the passage tonight is all about the Word. You see the word of God mentioned in verse 21, verse 22, verse 23, and it’s referred to in verse 25 “as the perfect law, the law of liberty.”

More specifically, the context is about our response to the Word – how we receive the Word (vv. 19-21), how we do the Word (vv. 22-25), and how we apply the Word (vv. 26-27). Receiving. Doing. Applying.


Receiving (19-21)

Look back with me at verses 19 to 21. The key word here is “receive” (verse 21). These verses are talking about how you receive the Word. Using a simple illustration borrowed from John MacArthur, your dial is tuned to a particular radio station frequency. It is possible to receive the Word because you’ve set your spiritual dial to that frequency. And if you are dialed into that frequency, James tells us that we should have a willingness to receive the Word with three attitudes. [3]


  1. A Willingness to Receive the Word with Submission

First, there should be a willingness to receive the Word with submission. He says to them: “This you know...” What does he mean? Well, he’s really playing off of verse 18 – “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth…” You have experienced the power of the Word to transform your life and make you a whole new creation. Knowing this, let everyone submit to these imperatives: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” [3]

What does he mean by “quick to listen“? Is he just talking about being a good hearer? No! What does he mean by “slow to speak”? Is he just talking about giving a dumb opinion before you’ve heard the whole story? No! What does he mean by “slow to anger“? Is he just talking about not blowing your top? No!

The Word of God is the theme in this passage. Thus, each command should probably be viewed in light of how we receive the Word of God. When he says “be quick to listen,” he means be quick to listen to the Word of God. Grasp every opportunity to increase your hearing of God’s Word. When he says “be slow to speak,” he means be slow to hold yourself out as a biblical expert of the Word (see James 3:1). Be slow to be a teacher. And when he says “be slow to anger,” he means don’t build up resentment inside of yourself (“orge”) to the Word. Don’t resent it because it doesn’t agree with what you thought or because it confronts your sin. [3]

James is concerned with your reaction to the Word. So first of all you should be willing to receive the Word with a submissive spirit by being “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.”


  1. A Willingness to Receive the Word with Purity

Second, there should be a willingness to receive the Word with purity. James uses a word picture in verse 21 to drive this point home. It is clothing imagery. James wants us to imagine our sins — our bitterness in trial, our lack of faith, our critical tongue, our love of the world — as a “filthy” garment that we must remove. Many of us just shrug our shoulders and say: “I’m only human,” implying that our sinning is O.K. because everybody does it. Every person does sin. But sin is never O.K. We must rise above this apathetic “I’m only human” philosophy, and strip off our filthy garments of bitterness, anger, worldliness, and lack of faith. [7] We should receive the Word with purity.

  1. A Willingness to Receive the Word with Humility

But there is more. James not only instructs us to dispose of the negative, but he gives us an instruction to appropriate the positive. Thirdly, James tells us to “in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls“.

James moves from clothing imagery to farming imagery. [7] James has just told us that it is the Word of God that was the instrument of our conversion (verse 18). Now he tells us that the implanted Word of God is the instrument of our sanctification. As you can see, I understand the expression able to save your souls as a reference to the present aspect of our salvation. There is a past dimension (our conversion), a present dimension (our sanctification or growth in Christlikeness), and a future dimension (our glorification, e.g., 1 John 3:2) to our salvation. [1] We are to receive the Word with humility – recognizing that the Word is the instrument of our spiritual growth – not anything that we bring to the table.

So, verses 19-21 are a call to correctly receive the Word of God. We are to receive it with a submissive heart, with a pure heart, and with a humble heart.

For a moment, do a little personal inventory. Do you hunger for the Word? Or are you always checking your watch to see when the sermon is over? Do you love studying the Word? Or do you find its study to be laborious? Do you cast aside sinful habits? Or do you just shrug your shoulders and say that you are only human? Do you receive the Word with humility? Or do you get mad that the Word instructs you to do something you don’t want to do?

When I see someone who has no particular appetite for the word of God, no particular longing to struggle with sin, no great passion for conforming to the demands of the Word — I conclude one of two things is true. One, they’re not Christians. They don’t really know the Lord because they don’t have the love of the Word. Or two, they know the Lord but have chosen to not remove their filthy garments of bitterness, anger, and worldliness. It is as if their ears are plugged by sin and they cannot hear the commands of the word of God. [3]

That is the receiving of God’s Word in verses 19-21. Now let us consider the doing of God’s Word in verses 22-25.


Doing (22-25)

Doing is introduced by the very famous line in verse 22 where we read, “But prove your selves doers of the word and not merely hearers that delude themselves.” The word “but” is important. It’s wonderful to hear the Word with submission. It’s wonderful to hear the Word with purity. It’s wonderful to hear the Word with humility. But it is not enough to just hear. You have to go one step further and do the Word. It must be obeyed in life. [5]

My daughter Hannah loves horses. From the first time she rode on a horse at the age of 3, she wanted to be around horses. Even to this day – after years of lessons, working in the stables, and riding on the college equestrian team – she has an urge to be around horses. Can you imagine me giving her a beautiful Quarter horse or an Arabian and her not choosing to do something with it? Can you imagine her never placing a saddle on its back or never taking the horse for a ride? She would just allow it to wander around the pasture grazing. She would receive my gift, say she loves it, and do nothing with it.

James wants us to be different. James wants us to receive the Word and to do something with it. James wants us to be “doers.” To help us understand what James means, let’s consider three things.

  • What does he mean by a “doer”?
  • What does he mean by a “hearer”?
  • What is he telling us with his mirror analogy?


  1. Doer

James chooses a word for “doers” that is meant to characterize our whole personality. Instead of saying “do the Word”, he says “be doers of the word.” It’s one thing to fight in a war, it’s something else to be soldier. It’s one thing to build a house, it’s something else to be a builder. It’s one thing to teach somebody, it’s something else to be a teacher. James wants us to understand that doing should characterize our whole life. We are characteristically to be “doers.” [5]


  1. Hearer

The word for “hearers” is very interesting. In verse 22, James uses a Greek word that is the ancient term for auditors. John MacArthur [3] compares listening without doing to auditing a class in college. As an auditor, you enroll in, pay the tuition and fees for, and attend classes. However, you do not take tests, turn in papers, or complete any assignments. In other words, you “listen” to the course but you don’t do anything with what you hear. There’s no accountability, and therefore, no credit for the course.

Hearers think they are secure before God because they walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, sent a check to a worthy cause, or performed some good deeds. But if the word was truly implanted in them, and they truly received it with humility, then the word will set off an intense struggle with sin, like that which James has just described in terms of the need to continually put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness. Those who are only hearers of the word, don’t struggle with sin. They are comfortable wearing their filthy clothes. They are merely spiritual auditors. They are not “doers.”


  1. Mirror Analogy

As he often does in this epistle, James now uses a vivid illustration of a mirror to press home his point. The person who merely hears – but who doesn’t do what the word commands — behaves as follows. Verse 23: “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural in a mirror, for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer, but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.

The contrast which James sets out here is an important one and we need to carefully unpack this. The spiritual auditor (hearer only), looks at the reflection of himself in a mirror. He gazes intently upon his reflection, but when he walks away he almost immediately forgets what he looks like. Isn’t that crazy?! To look closely at something and then forget what you see? That is James’ point exactly. It is absurd that we would listen intently to the words of Scripture and then NOT DO THEM? [7]

But the doer of the word – notice in verse 25 — looks not at himself. He gazes upon the Word, which James calls the “perfect law, the law of liberty.” And when you look into the word of God intently, you see the revelation of your sinfulness. You see how you need to repent. You see how you need to throw off the filthy garments of sin. You see the need to adorn yourself in the beautiful robes of righteousness. The one who looks intently at the Word and then chooses to abide by it, becomes an effectual doer. And the effectual doer “will be blessed in what he does.” Do you want to be blessed or unblessed? I’d rather be blessed. Wouldn’t you?

That is the doing of God’s Word in verses 22-25. Now let us consider the applying of God’s Word.


Applying (26-27)

In verses 26-27, James provides three examples of how applying the Word manifests itself not in words, but in concrete actions:

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

Earlier in the sermon, I talked about my giving a gift of a horse to my daughter and her receiving the gift but choosing not to ride the horse. Isn’t that absurd? But even if she had chosen to ride the horse (do something), there is so much more that should be done with the horse. The horse was given as a gift so that it could be used for jumping, cutting, or roping. The horse was meant to be used for concrete purposes – not just ridden around in a circle.

Likewise, James wants us to apply God’s word. He wants us to take concrete action. Those who hear and do the word tame their tongues, they remember the poor and the afflicted, and they make every effort to avoid being contaminated by the world. Let’s look briefly at each of his three applications.


  1. The Tongue [2]

In verse 26, James uses the tongue as a diagnostic device for taking stock of the heart. Our speech, our tongue, our self-control or lack of self-control, is a manifestation of what is in our hearts. And James flatly says: “If you do not bridle your tongue, you are deceiving yourselves. Your religion is worthless.” It’s a hard word to speak, for there are few areas more difficult for us, than to control than our tongues. Nevertheless, James is saying that if you want to be a “doer” of the Word, if you want to take concrete action — you need to bridle your tongue.


  1. Compassion in Need

In verse 27, James goes on to say that our compassion for those who are in need, is another example of being a “doer” of the Word. As the tongue is not comprehensively indicative of being a “doer”, so visiting widows and orphans is not comprehensively indicative of being a “doer.” But visiting orphans and widows in their affliction is a concrete example of pure and undefiled religion.

God has always been concerned with the fatherless and widows (e.g., Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 14:28-29; Deuteronomy 24:17-22; Deuteronomy 27:19; Psalm 68:5; Psalm 68:5). He has a special heart for people who have great need. He wants us to visit them in their affliction. The word “to visit” means more than just to go by and say “Hi.” It carries the idea of bringing love and pity to someone. It’s used in Matthew chapter 25 where Jesus says: I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25:36). It doesn’t mean you came by and waved. It means you came, you nurtured, you cared, you loved, you provided whatever was needed. [6] James is saying, if you want to be a “doer” of the Word, you need to show tangible compassion to those in need.


  1. Resisting the World

Finally in verse 27 James goes on to say that our determination to resist worldliness, in heart and action, is a concrete example of being a “doer” of the Word. James is saying that there is no such thing as justification without sanctification, there is no such thing as the new birth without the new life, and there is no such thing as grace without obedience. [2] That is because anybody who is a friend of the world is the enemy of God. The two are incompatible. You love the world, you don’t love the Father. You’re a friend of the world, you’re an enemy of God. There’s no place for compromise.

Look at people around you. Do they love the world? Do they live for the world? Do they indulge in the world? If so, there is good reason to believe they may not be a believer. [6]

What do I mean by the world? Am I concerned that they drive on the freeway? Stay in a hotel? Go to a restaurant? Buy their clothes at a department store? No! I mean do they buy into the world’s philosophy? Do they buy into its cultures so that impacts their life and governs their behavior? Do they love fame, success, power, and wealth? Do they find their purpose and joy in this world rather than in the next?

James is saying that a “doer” of the Word shows an inner control manifest in their speech, shows a love for people in need, and stays away from being stained by the surrounding culture. [6]


Closing Thoughts [2]

We opened our study of James 1:19-27 by stating that the purpose of this text was to instruct us in our proper response to the Word. We saw how we are to receive the Word (with submission, with purity, and with humility), how we are to do the Word (and not be just a hearer or spiritual auditor), and how we are to apply the Word (by showing an inner control manifest in our speech, showing a love for people in need, and staying away from being stained by the surrounding culture). That is the receiving, doing, and applying of the Word.

In closing….. What do these things tell you? Some of us ought to be saying to ourselves: “I’ve been fooling myself. I call myself a Christian, but I’m not.” If that’s your reaction to the Holy Spirit’s teaching through the words of James, there’s only one thing for you to do. You need to run to Jesus Christ. You need to run to the cross. You can’t fix yourself. The Christian life is not an endless series of resolutions to do better. The Christian life is not turning a new leaf. The Christian life is not just the latest and greatest self-help remedy. The Christian life is the recognition that we do not have within ourselves the energy, the power, or the ability to change ourselves. We need to look outside of ourselves. We need to look “somewhere else.” And the only “somewhere else” is in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. It’s when we renounce our own ability to try and change ourselves and we run to Him that we find salvation and grace to change.

For others of you, it may just be dawning on you that your view of Christianity is flawed. You are comfortable being a Sunday Christian. You do some things that are spiritual. You occasionally read your Bible. You occasionally pray. You may even occasionally takes notes during a sermon. But you realize the Word is not permeating the whole of your life. Well if that’s the case then you need to ask the Holy Spirit to renovate the whole of your life, to change your mindset, your outlook, and to give you new priorities. You need to ask Him to make you more than a Sunday Christian. Ask Him to enable you to receive the truth of the Word with submission, with purity, and with humility. Ask Him to make you a doer of the Word as well as a hearer. As Him to give you the grace to faithfully “apply” the Word by controlling your tongue, showing compassion to those in need, and staying away from worldliness.

Let us pray. Father – We pray that You will cause us to desire to study your Word. We pray that You will cause us to receive your Word in submission, purity, and humility. We pray that You will cause us to be hearers of the world who hear and do. We pray that You will cause us to look into the mirror and see what needs to be removed from our life. We pray that You will cause us demonstrate our faith with concrete acts of obedience. We pray that You manifest in us genuine saving faith. May the fruit of our efforts be blessed and may we give You the praise which is due Your holy name. In Your Son’s name we pray — Amen.



[1] Robert Deffinbaugh, “Accepting Adversity” (James 1:1-27)

[2] J. Ligon Duncan, “The Essence of Christian Living” (James 1:19-27)

[3] John MacArthur, “Responding to the Word” (James 1:19-27)

[4] John MacArthur, “The Belief that Behaves” (James 1:19-21)

[5] John MacArthur, “The Belief that Behaves” (James 1:22-25)

[6] John MacArthur, “The Belief that Behaves” (James 1:26-27)

[7] Bryn MacPhail, “Our Battle with Hypocrisy” (James 1:19-27)

[8] Kim Riddlebarger, “The Law of Liberty” (James 1:19-27)

Mark 10:32-52

The Savior’s Answer

Mark 10:32-52



As we continue our study of Mark’s Gospel, we are back in Mark chapter 10. This chapter covers that period in Jesus’ messianic mission in which Jesus left Capernaum and began making His way to Jerusalem. During this trip, it is becoming apparent to many that His messianic ministry is coming to its climax. In “going up to” Jerusalem (referring to the climb to city on the hill), Jesus is setting the stage for a final conflict with the religious leaders of Israel. This final conflict will lead to Jesus’ death and His resurrection from the dead three days later.


As we saw last week in Mark 10:17-31, a wealthy young man sought out Jesus and asked him: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Having realized from Jesus’ answer that they can do nothing to save themselves, our passage — the balance of Mark 10 — will show that the disciples continue to struggle with their master’s words.


Let us read the first portion of tonight’s text (vv. 32-34).


And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”


Let us pray. Dear heavenly Father, this is Your Word. We know that all Scripture is given by inspiration from You and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, instruction, and correction in the way of righteousness, so that the man of God might be thoroughly equipped for every good work. So equip us, then, O Lord, as we now study this, Your Word, together. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.


I love to visit museums. I find great joy in going from exhibit to exhibit, reading every word of every sign. My insatiable appetite to learn enables me to spend hours in a museum and not finish going through every exhibit hall. To no one’s surprise, my family hates to visit museums – with me! They like to quickly go from exhibit to exhibit stopping only at the few that catch their attention.


The passage before us can be likened to a museum. If we were to follow my pattern of visiting a museum, we would be in this text for at least three or four weeks. Unfortunately, one of my anti-museum family members wants us to quickly sail across this passage. As such, I will not spend any significant time looking at true greatness, the nature of the atonement, or a consideration of biblical service (which was done several weeks back). Rather, I am going to consider Jesus’ prophecy, the disciples prayer, and a beggar’s plea. Then I will conclude with a comment on a question — “What do you want me to do for you?” (vv. 36, 51) – which is asked of two different audiences. A prophecy, a prayer, and a plea.


A Prophecy

First, let us consider the prophecy.


We learn in Mark 10:32 that Jesus’ mission will indeed take him all the way to Jerusalem. Knowing that this is where Jesus was heading, the scene as described by Mark is very sober. There is already great tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leadership. People have witnessed this on a number of occasions and they understand that if Jesus goes all the way to Jerusalem, there will be conflict. Mark notes this great tension in the first part of verse 32:And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.[10]


We need to be clear that this is not a circumstance in which Jesus suddenly decides to head south on a whim – “oh, let’s go to Jerusalem, we haven’t been there yet.” Rather, this is part of Jesus’ plan. And it is His solemn determination to make the trip (despite the risks) which creates the sense of awe, amazement, and anxiety. [10]


Mark tells us of another reason why the tension level has increased. They are confused. According to the latter part of verse 32: “And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him…On two previous occasions, Jesus had tried to tell His men that He was sent to this world to die (Mark. 8:31; 9:31). Yet, the disciples were not able to fully comprehend His message. Jordan has on two occasions explained how they stumbled on this fact — If Jesus is truly the Messiah, how is it that He will suffer and die? The Jews were looking for the Messiah, a military leader, not a man who gets Himself executed. The disciples simply have no category for reconciling Jesus’ messianic kingship with His role as the suffering servant.


So, for the third time, Jesus explains to the twelve what was about to happen. This time, Jesus does so in the most exacting detail. He tells His disciples that His future involves: [1]


  • Rejection (vs. 33)
  • Ridicule (vs. 34)
  • Regicide (vs. 34) – referring to “the killing of a king”
  • Resurrection (vs. 34)


How did Jesus know these things? There are two answers. First, Jesus is God! He knows these things are about to take place because they are part of the plan He developed. Second, He knows these things because He had read the Old Testament. Everything Jesus tells His men in these verses was prophesied of the Savior before He ever came into the world. I said that to say this, if you want to know the mind of God, read His book! He has all the information you need to know for both life and death in the pages of His Word, the Bible. [1]


A Prayer

That is the prophecy. Let us now consider the prayer.


In Mark 8, Jesus told them that they had a cross. They were to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. It continued in Mark 10 when Jesus told them for the third time that He would go to the cross. Despite repeated teachings, they didn’t understand what the cross meant for Jesus and they didn’t understand what the cross meant for them. This is highlighted by James and John.


  1. Notice the selfish petition. [1]

James and John approach Jesus asking: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory. The right hand seat was reserved for the person who was second in rank, while the left hand seat was reserved for the person who was third in rank. These men saw themselves as the leaders among the disciples and they wanted their positions made permanent. They were literally asking for three things. They wanted:

  • They wanted the glory and honor that came from being elevated to a throne.
  • They wanted to be close to Jesus in the Kingdom.
  • These men wanted to have positions of great authority in the coming kingdom.


  1. Notice the somber proclamation. [1]


“38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized,40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”


Jesus responds to the selfish petition by telling them that they have no idea what they are asking for. He asks them by asking them if they are willing and able to experience all that He is about to endure. They tell Him that they can. But these men do not understand what awaits Jesus. These men would ultimately walk the same road that Jesus walked, but they could never endure what He was about to suffer. Jesus tells them that positions in the kingdom would not be given out based on selfish ambition, but according to the will of sovereign God.


  1. Notice the spiritual pattern. [1]


“41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


Jesus is saying that in the kingdom over which He reigns greatness is obtained by pursuing a course of action which is the exact opposite of that which is followed in the unbelieving world. It is an inverted pyramid. The Lord wants us to know that the path to the top leads through the bottom. Jesus uses His impending sacrifice as the ultimate example of sacrificial service. We learn something very important about Jesus here. He sets the pattern all of His people are commanded to follow. He did not come to be served, He came to serve.


While time will not allow us to consider a detailed study of the nature of the atonement — verse 45 is too important to pass by without making a couple of brief comments. First, notice that Christ “gave His life.” Christ’s death was a voluntary self-sacrifice. Second, Christ’s death was a “ransom.” It was “in place of” or “in exchange for.” It is the basis for the theological term — substitutionary atonement (see also 1 Peter 1:18-19). Third, Christ’s death was “many.” Not in the place of all but of many. Who these many are is clear from such passages as Matt. 1:21, John 10:11, Acts 20:28, Romans 8:32-35, or Eph. 5:25 to name a few. However also, not in the place of a few but of many — without any distinction as to race, nationality, class, age, sex, etc. (See Rom. 10:12-13, 1 Cor. 7:19, Eph. 2:14-18, Col. 3:11, or 1 Tim. 2:6). What a Savior!


Now, we’re very good at criticizing James and John. But if we’re honest: which of us is any different than James and John here? If we want to succeed, we must measure ourselves by this spiritual pattern. And the first way we ought to measure ourselves is to measure our prayers. This might seem strange to you, but if you look at verse 35, it is essentially a prayer. Notice:

  • They know who to petition. Likewise, we know that our petitions must be made to the Lord.
  • They know that they can boldly make petitions (Matthew 7:7-8). Likewise, we know that we are encouraged to boldly approach the Lord when making a petition.
  • They know that the one petitioned can answer their request. Likewise, we know that the Lord can answer our petitions. Matthew 21 tells us: “And all things, whatsoever you ask in prayer believing, you shall receive.”


Unfortunately, the nature of their request is also similar to the nature of our prayers:

  • They come and thunder a request. They ask: “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” (How many of you parents have had children ask you – “If I ask you to give something, will you give it to me?” What is your natural reaction? You put your hand over your wallet? You look to hide your purse! You refuse to agree to such a “blank check” request!) James and John effectively ask: “We want You to do what we want!” How about some of our prayer requests? Are they as selfish? Are they as presumptuous? Are they as outrageous?
  • They wanted to be at either side of the Lord Jesus in His eternal kingdom. The Lord said: “That’s not mine to give at this moment.” How about some of our prayer requests? Do we always get what we ask for?
  • They wanted special benefits. The Lord said: “Are you prepared to endure what it will take to receive these benefits?” How about some of our prayer requests? Do we really know what we are asking for?


So, what was the real problem with the request of James and John? The real problem was threefold.[5] There was a problem with the basis of the request, the motive of their request, and the details of their request. Let’s take each of these and see how these apply to our prayers.


The basis of their request was a problem because prayer always has to be according to God’s will. That’s part of what it means when Jesus said: “Ask anything in my name.” When we ask in His name we’re asking upon His authority and His authority is the declaration of His word. So the basis of our prayers must be according to God’s will.


The motive of their request was a problem. The apostle James talks of this in chapter 4 verse 2: “‘You have not, because you ask not.” Well, that can’t be said of these two boys, because they were asking, and they were asking very boldly. But this is more their case: “You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss.” You ask for the wrong reasons, you ask with the wrong motivation, “that you may consume it upon your lusts.” You ask selfishly! What we do does not matter to God, and what we pray does not matter God, as much as why we do, and why we pray. Just as water cannot rise higher than its source, prayers can never rise higher than the motives that inspire them.


The details of their request was also a problem. The cross comes before the crown. The suffering is before the glory. The pain is before the reward. This is why the Lord Jesus said at the beginning of verse 38: “You don’t know what you’re asking!” Now, if ever there was a lesson in prayer, it’s that one. We need to be careful what we ask God for. We tend in prayer to focus on the end? What about the means? How’s God going to get you there? We all want the crown, the glory, and the reward. We forget about the journey. We forget about the cost.


A Plea

That is the prophecy and the prayer. Now let us consider the plea.


Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. As He moves steadily in that direction, He is surrounded by people who cannot understand Who He is. The Jews are blind to Who He is, though He tried to tell them and show them on many occasions. The disciples are blind to Who He is, though they have seen Him demonstrate His identity time after time. [4]


On this particular day, the roads of the city were jammed with pilgrims. All of Israel was on their way to Jerusalem for the Passover and the road through Jericho was one of the main routes to the Temple. People crowded along the roads to see Jesus as He passed through. The people might not have known exactly Who He was, but they knew He was someone special and they turned out to see Him as He passed by. [4]


As I look out over this congregation this evening, I am reminded again of the truth that not everyone who came in here tonight can see. Oh, your eyes work fine. You didn’t have to rely on a white cane, a seeing eye dog, or someone with vision to assist you this evening. However, there are those that simply cannot see. Though they can see the world around them, they cannot see the truth of God’s love and plan for their lives. Why? They are blind spiritually. This evening, I intend, from this passage, to help you see that Jesus is who you need. [3]


“46 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.”


Notice three things about this story.


  1. Condition [4]

First, notice Bartimaeus’ condition.

  • He was blind (verse 46). Here is a man who might never have seen a sunrise or a sunset. He might never have seen the smile on a baby’s face. He might never have seen the beauty of God’s creation. Bartimaeus lived in a world of darkness. (Comment to children.)
  • He was a beggar (verse 46). Bartimaeus was not able to go out and find a job. There were no social programs and no welfare programs to help him survive. He was forced to sit beside the road and beg for his living. He was totally dependent upon the generosity of others in order to survive. His was a pitiful and wretched condition!


In his condition, Bartimaeus is a good portrait of every person who is outside Jesus and lost in sin. Like Bartimaeus who was physically blind, the lost person is spiritually blind (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 4:18; Rom. 3:11). They are blind to their condition, to their sin, and to their impending eternal doom. Like Bartimaeus, the lost person is also a spiritual beggar. They can do nothing, and they have nothing within themselves to produce salvation. They are simply sitting by the highway side begging as Jesus passes by.


  1. Cry [4]

Secondly, notice Bartimaeus’ cry.

  • It was particular.Bartimaeus didn’t call out to anyone and everyone who passed by on the road. It isn’t enough to know you have a need; you must also know who can meet that need.He focused his attention on only one person.[9] (Note:The importance and power of faith is found entirely in its object.)


Before a lost person can call out to the Lord for salvation, they must first understand just Who He is. They must see Him as their only hope. They must understand that He alone can save their souls and forgive their sins. They must see that Jesus is more than a teacher or some poor fellow Who got Himself killed on a cross. They must come to understand that He is the Son God. They must see that He died for their sins. They must see that He rose again from the dead. (Romans 10:9)


  • It was personal.Bartimaeus cries to Jesus and says, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.” Did you notice that Bartimaeus did not try to demand his “rights”? Bartimaeus knows that he is no position to demand anything. He is seeking “mercy”. Bartimaeus knew that he needed something he could not provide and had no right to demand. He cried out to Jesus asking for help for his wretched condition!


I read about a lady who went to a photographer one day and had her picture made. When the photographer showed her the proofs, she was very unhappy. She said: “Well, I don’t like that! Those proofs don’t do me justice.” He said: “Ma’am, what you need is not justice. What you need is mercy!


We have women’s rights, civil rights, children’s rights, gay rights, and every other kind of right imaginable. When it comes to spiritual things, we do not want “rights”. If we got what we deserved, we would be in Hell today. We have no right to Heaven. We have no right to Jesus. We have no right to salvation. We have the right to live a lost, wretched life and we have right to an eternity in Hell. We do not want our rights! We want mercy (and grace)! (Eph. 2:4; Titus 3:5)


  • It was persistent. Bartimaeus is calling out to Jesus and he is raising a ruckus. The people try to silence him. They threatened him and said in effect, “You better shut your mouth blind man! Don’t bother Jesus! He’s too busy for the likes of you!” Bartimaeus didn’t care about any of that. He didn’t care that his shouting was annoying the crowd surrounding Jesus. He had one chance, only one, to see and he wasn’t going to let anyone or anything stand in his way of making contact with Jesus. [9]


You know, Jesus never went this way again. He would never be in Jericho again. He would never be on this road again. If Bartimaeus had heeded the people who were telling him to be quiet, if he had allowed Jesus to pass, he would have been without mercy forever. Likewise, it may well be for some of you, that Jesus is passing by you tonight. Tell Him you want to become a Christian. Tell Him you want your sins forgiven. Tell Him you want to be born again. Tell Him in case He never passes by this way again. [12]


  1. Cure [4]

Thirdly, notice Bartimaeus’ cure.


It is personal. Jesus heard the cry of Bartimaeus and He stopped in His tracks. He is on the way to the cross but He still takes time for one blind sinner! What a Savior! Imagine how Bartimaeus must have felt. Day after day he sat by this road. The people pass by and most of them simply ignore him. Yet when Jesus asks him what he wants. Bartimaeus responds in faith and asks for healing. He wants to see. And he is healed! It is instantaneous and it is powerful.



In closing this evening, I want to look at the question that Jesus asks of James/John and Bartimaeus – “What do you want Me to do for you?” It is not accidental for Mark to place these stories back to back in his gospel. There is something(s) that he wants us to see.


The contrast is stark. James and John answer with a selfish petition – “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory” (vs. 37). Bartimaeus answers with a request for mercy – “Son of David…Have mercy on me” (vs. 47). We see that the motivation of James and John was that of pride. We see that the motivation of Bartimaeus was that of brokenness. We see that the attitude of James and John was a sense of a worthy right – they believed they had a right to the position beside Christ in His coming kingdom. We see that the attitude of Bartimaeus was that he had no rights. We see that the disciples were blind and couldn’t see it. Bartimaeus knew he was blind and that he needed sight!


We who want to know Christ and follow Christ need to learn what Paul said: “That I may know Him” We want that. “…and the power of His resurrection…” We want that. But Paul goes on to say: “… and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” We don’t want that! James and John wanted power and glory. They did not want a cross. The disciples are blind, even as the Lord Jesus goes to the cross, 15 miles away from Jerusalem. We will see that it is not until after the resurrection that the disciples’ eyes are opened about the whole plan of the cross and resurrection. In fact, He urges the two on the Road to Emmaus “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24). But Bartimaeus, though he was literally blind, had inner eyes to see. He calls Jesus: “Rabboni,” which means “Master.” Twice he calls Jesus the “Son of David,” a national messianic title. He – Bartimaeus, not the disciples — understood who Jesus was and what he had to ask of Jesus. He – a blind man, not the disciples – called out to Jesus in faith. May we be so blind and demonstrate as much faith.


Closing Prayer

Let us close in prayer. Father, we pray that we will understand, that I will understand, what it means to be truly crucified with Christ, what it means to have true glory, have true success, have true achievement, have true greatness. It is when I die, and His glory shines from me, through me, and to Thee. Lord, for those whom this is for, may they receive it, and may it make a change. Amen.



[1]    Alan Carr, “And Jesus Went Before Them” (Mark 10:32-34)

[2]    Alan Carr, “The High Cost of Finishing First” (Mark 10:35-45)

[3]    Alan Carr, “Bartimaeus: A Blind Man with 20/20 Vision” (Mark 10:46-52)

[4]    Alan Carr, “What’s a Poor, Blind Beggar to Do?” (Mark 10:46-52)

[5]    David Legge, “God’s Qualification Of Greatness

[6]    David Legge, “A Real Eye-Opener

[7]    Bryn MacPhail, “Greatness Explained” (Mark 10:35‐45)

[8]    Bryn MacPhail, “Jesus, Our Servant?” (Mark 10:45 & Selected Scriptures)

[9]    Robert S. Rayburn, “A Representative Disciple” (Mark 10:32-52)

[10]  Kim Riddlebarger, “A Ransom for Many” (Mark 10:32-52)

[11] Derek W.H. Thomas, “Crossways” (Mark 10:32-45)

[12]  Derek W.H. Thomas “Lord, Have Mercy” (Mark 10